Thirty years ago, women stood on the steps of the U.S. Capitol asking for parity so these numbers could become a reality. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Women’s Business Ownership Act, numbered H.R. 5050, which was the last landmark piece of legislation on behalf of women business owners.
An effort that began with the hard work of members from the National Association of Women Business Owners, H.R. 5050 may be our legacy, but our work to ensure its tenets are honored and that the cause of parity for women business owners continues to advance is our future.
In a recent white paper putting the spotlight on H.R.5050, “The Bill That Changed Everything for Women Business Owners,” NAWBO pointed out some areas of improvement for future policy, such as expanding access to capital, providing for research that assesses and meets the needs of women business owners, and targeting support for women of color and women in tech.
We also suggested that Congress give Small Business Administration-supported Women’s Business Centers the tools to create more of an emphasis on business expansion, and reminded lawmakers of the importance of policy that will encourage more women involvement in procurement.
We believe Congress is up to the task of fixing these problems, but it is going to take a collaborative effort, passing legislation generated and supported on both sides of the aisle.
Already this budget cycle, NAWBO did our part by supporting the Women’s Business Center program through our advocacy efforts. NAWBO’s actions included a full court press of reaching out to members of Congress to create the proper budget for the program.
Beyond our efforts on the budget, NAWBO continues to support sound pieces of public policy that underscore the areas of improvement we set out to achieve for the next generation of women entrepreneurs. For example, NAWBO is proud a supporter of the Microloan Modernization Act, H.R. 2056, authored by Representative Stephanie Murphy, D-Florida. Its dual push for the expansion of the existing microloan program as well as a study to measure its effectiveness would put money into the hands of small business.
We hope the report will help our efforts to highlight the need for the growing the program, expanding participation and providing more small-business owners the avenue they need to gain capital and other management and technical assistance.
In that similar vein, NAWBO is also proud to support the Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs Act of 2017 authored by Representative Barbara Comstock, R-Virginia. If this bill becomes law, it would provide more access to capital for women as well as minority-owned businesses.
We know that when women do well, the economy does well. Studies show that women are prone to reinvest back into their company and communities, benefiting local economies.
And finally, NAWBO is calling on Congress to swiftly pass H.R. 4219, the Workflex in the 21st Century Act authored by Mimi Walters, R-California. This bill would amend the Employee Retirement and Income Security Act to create a qualified flexible work arrangement plan as an employee welfare benefit. By voluntarily choosing to provide employees a federal standard of paid time off and options for flexible work arrangements, such as telecommuting or compressed work schedules, these businesses would no longer be required to follow state and local paid leave requirements.
These specific policies are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the best policies for women business owners. In the end, we hope our efforts lead to a comprehensive bipartisan piece of legislation that will advance the women business owner landscape for the next 30 years.
Kathy Warnick is owner of Warnick Consultants in Powell, and this year is board chair of the National Association of Women Business Owners.