Women Entrepreneurs Mark 25th Anniversary of the Passage of the Women’s Business Ownership Act of 1988
Washington, D.C – October 25th marks the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Women’s Business Ownership Act of 1988 in the United States. The legislation, designated as H.R. 5050 – for the equality it set out to establish – was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan.
This landmark piece of legislation ushered in a transformation in women’s enterprise development by addressing key barriers that had been impeding entrepreneurism and business growth by women,” said Billie Dragoo, Chair and Interim CEO of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), an organization that was instrumental in the legislation’s passage. “As a result of this legislation, women entrepreneurs were provided with long overdue access to capital, education and technical assistance offered in a woman’s voice, access to federal policymaking circles, and the undercounting of the number and economic contributions of women-owned businesses were finally addressed.”
The four tenets of the Act included: 1) extending the Equal Credit Opportunity Act to include business credit, 2) launching a “demonstration project” that resulted in the establishment of women’s business centers across the country, 3) establishing the National Women’s Business Council, and 4) directing the Census Bureau to include all women-owned firms in its quinquennial business census.
As important as all of the elements of the Act have been to women’s enterprise development, I’d argue that providing compelling and myth-busting data and statistics have done more than capital, counseling and
community to propel the growth of women-owned businesses forward. Indeed, it has proven to be the fuel that has opened eyes, changed hearts and minds, and allowed us to measure progress and point out continued gaps,” stated Julie Weeks, President and CEO of Womenable, who has conducted much of the groundbreaking research on women’s entrepreneurship that has been undertaken since the passage of the Women’s Business Ownership Act.
The National Women’s Business Council (NWBC), a bipartisan advisory body created by H.R. 5050, has as its mission to provide advice and counsel on women entrepreneurial needs to the Congress, the Administrator of the Small Business Administration and the President of the United States.
“Women business owners today are often shocked to hear about the challenges that their predecessors faced only 25 years ago,” according to Virginia Littlejohn, CEO of Quantum Leaps, Inc., one of the NAWBO leadership team who helped the House Small Business Committee organize the hearings. “In an era when many states required a male to co-sign a business loan, one witness who was divorced and didn’t have a husband or father who could be a co-signer had to ask her 17-year old son to co-sign for her – when he couldn’t even vote.”
In addition to commemorating the silver anniversary of H.R. 5050, women are looking forward to what remains to be done, cognizant of the integral role women entrepreneurs play in the nation’s economy. Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP) is best known as an umbrella group that provides advocacy on behalf of many major associations of women entrepreneurs. It has played a significant role in creating expanded opportunities for women-owned businesses in federal contracting. WIPP’s President and Co-Founder, Barbara Kasoff has been a trailblazer in creating a powerful national voice for women entrepreneurs, and training for a women entrepreneurial growth agenda. She added, “We know all too well that our work is not nearly done; and we know all too well that while women are key drivers of economic growth, we continue to face barriers to economic participation and that gap undermines global economic expansion, an important factor in our growth. We are creating partnerships, we are energizing our leaders and we are building a new, more inclusive and robust role for women in our nation.”
Women are leading the economic recovery in this country by starting more businesses and growing them faster. If we can spur every woman business owner to add just one employee to her company, we will add millions of new jobs and give this economy the jolt of growth it needs,” said Monica Smiley, publisher and CEO of Enterprising Women, a magazine that reaches one million women entrepreneurs in 185 countries around the globe.
Founded in 1975, the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) propels women entrepreneurs into economic, social and political spheres of power worldwide by: strengthening the wealth creating capacity of our members and promoting economic development within the entrepreneurial community; creating innovative and effective change in the business culture; building strategic alliances, coalitions and affiliations; and transforming public policy and influencing opinion makers. Learn more at www.nawbo.org.