It has been clear for at least 50 years the disadvantages that small businesses face in competing for U.S. government contracts. The Small Business Act of 1953 created the Small Business Administration (SBA), an independent agency in the executive branch that counsels and assists specific types of small businesses including firms owned by minorities and other socially and economically disadvantaged individuals and firms owned by women. Women-owned small businesses, however, are underrepresented or substantially underrepresented in some industries.
In 2002, the SBA Office of Federal Contract Assistance for Women Business Owners (CAWBO) organized a draft study containing a preliminary set of approximations of the representation of women-owned small businesses in federal prime contracts over $25,000 by industry. Because of the past legal challenges to race- and gender-conscious contracting programs at the federal and local levels, the SBA asked the Committee on National Statistics of the National Academies to conduct an independent review of relevant data and estimation methods prior to finalizing the CAWBO study.
The Steering Committee on Women-Owned Small Businesses in Federal Contracting was created and charged with holding a workshop to discuss topics including the accuracy of data and methods to estimate the use of women-owned small businesses in federal contracting and the definition of "underrepresentation" and "substantial underrepresentation" in designating industries for which preferential contracting programs might be warranted. Analyzing Information on Women-Owned Small Businesses in Federal Contracting presents the committee's report as well as the recommendations that committees have made.