True Colors

Fair Share

According to a recent study, Uncle Sam may not be putting his money where his mouth is. Women-owned businesses' share of total federal government procurement was reported at a mere 1.5 percent in 1996, despite the federal government's goal of providing at least 5 percent of contract dollars to entrepreneurial women. According to Eagle Eye Publishers Inc., a Vienna, Virginia-based market research organization specializing in the federal market, only three of the 13 federal agencies that spend the bulk of federal procurement dollars met the 5 percent goal.

"The good news is that [the overall share] has doubled in 10 years; the bad news is it's well under 2 percent," says Eagle Eye president Paul Murphy. "Women-owned businesses are dramatically underrepresented in the federal marketplace, and it doesn't look like government will come anywhere near meeting its goals for contracting with women in the near future."

Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Commerce, and the Department of the Interior were top-ranked, providing women with $23.7 million (10.2 percent), $45.8 million (5.8 percent), and $42.2 million (5.2 percent), respectively.

Meanwhile, the Department of Defense doled out more than $1.6 billion in contracts to women-owned businesses in fiscal 1996. However, that amount represented only 1.3 percent of its total contracts.

Whether the results of the study indicate a trend in government spending remains to be seen. "The proof of this trend will be in the spending in fiscal 1997," says Murphy, "and that data is just starting to appear."

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This article was originally published in the September 1997 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: True Colors.

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