Businesses certified by the Women President’s Educational Organization (WPEO) in the New York Tristate area reported a 221 percent increase in contracts in 2013. The data suggests an overall trend in women starting to overcome barriers that have held them back from obtaining contracts.
According to experts, networking has traditionally been a challenge for female small business owners.
“Women still don’t have the connections and don’t have the inroads,” WPEO founder Dr. Marsha Firestone, told Fox Business.
The business contract world, which Firestone refers to as the “old boy’s network,” can be inaccessible for women. Only 26 percent of female entrepreneurs say they are excellent negotiators, according to American Express OPEN’s 2013 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report.
But the WPEO has aimed to end that by forming a community of women owned businesses.
The organization, founded in 1998 by Firestone, seeks to “create increased access to business opportunities for Women’s Business Enterprises” by developing skills, advocating in the public, fostering relationships and providing certification. For a $500 fee, a business can apply for certification, which is awarded if, among other qualifications, at least 51% of the business is owned by women and the management is primarily female. Once awarded, the business is granted educational resources and access to a supportive network of other WPEO businesses.
Firestone says the 221 percent increase is unexpected and yields good implications.
“In 1977, when 4.5 percent of businesses were owned by women, women-owned businesses tended to be in fashion, fitness, and beauty,” Firestone said to Fox Business. “Today, that’s no longer true. It’s everything from construction to health care to human resources, such as executive and temporary search.”
She believes corporations will increasingly award contracts to women-owned businesses due to the knowledge they bring to the table, saying to the source “[i]f women make 85 percent of purchases – it’s a very large group to leave out.”