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Lack of Women Hurting IT Industry

Female integrators are often ineligible for government contracts because federal law requires at least two women-owned businesses to submit bids. Only 11% of all IT firms are female owned.


Wendy Frank, founder of Accell Security Inc., is a rarity in the IT field as a female business owner.

Wendy Frank, founder of Accell Security Inc. in Birdsboro, Pa., wishes she had more competitors.

It's not often you hear any integrator say that, but in Frank's case, she has good reason.

The current Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Federal Contract program authorizes five percent of Federal prime and subcontracts to be set aside for WOSBs. While that might sound fair on the surface, in order to invoke the money set aside for this program, the contracting officer at an agency has to have a reasonable expectation that two or more WOSBs will submit offers for the job.

“We could not participate in the government’s Women-Owned Small Business program unless there was another female competitor,” says Frank. “Procurement officers required that at least two women-owned small businesses compete for the contracts, even in the IT field, where women-owned businesses are underrepresented.”

That's why the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) and seven of its partners have announced their support for a Senate bill (S. 2172) that will expand government contracting opportunities for small businesses owned by women. CompTIA and its partners say the WOSB program is an unrealistic expectation, and CompTIA members have been hurt by this requirement.

RELATED OPINION: Is it Fair to Favor Women in Federal Contracts?

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Current Population Survey support CompTIA and Frank’s concerns. The data show that women make up 47 percent of the U.S. professional workforce, but that only 28 percent fill core IT positions. This means that there are fewer women pursuing IT careers, and consequently who own their own IT business – in fact only 11 percent of IT firms in the U.S. are owned by women.

Passage of S. 2172 would help to eliminate this requirement and open the door for more WOSBs to compete in the government space.

Frank has been immersed in technology since her childhood, literally growing up around computers and studying accounting and computer science at Alvernia College. Frank, who holds several IT certifications (CISSP, CISA, MCSE and MCT), founded Accell Security Inc. in 2002 to combat the rise of security threats to businesses. Today Accell offers security services to managed service providers and value-added resellers. The company also helps non-profit organizations, law offices, medical facilities and other businesses maintain secure systems.

As her businesses flourished, Frank sought to branch out by pursuing government contracts under the federal Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) program. Though both Accell Security and Accell Technology, Inc. (which Frank founded in 2010) were highly qualified for the program, she kept running into the same roadblock.

Frank became active in advocating for changes in the WOSB federal contracting program. Even though Frank did not have a background in politics, she brought this issue to the attention of CompTIA’s Public Advocacy team. CompTIA assisted Frank in her efforts to advocate for a revision to the WOSB program, providing her with the support she needed to become involved in the political arena and advocate for a change that could help her business.

In November 2011, Frank participated in CompTIA’s Congressional “fly-in”, which allowed Frank to meet with staff from her senators’ and representative’s offices where she raised her concerns about the WOSB contract program. Since then Frank has stayed engaged and has been instrumental in moving this issue in a positive direction.

Following discussions with Frank, CompTIA’s public advocacy team contacted the House Small Business Committee, which culminated in HR 4203 being introduced and voted out of committee. Legislation that would repeal this two or more requirement is also pending in the Senate, but has not yet been voted out of committee. Frank says she is going to do everything she can to support passage of these bills by both the House and Senate.

“During this process, I’ve discovered that being an advocate for these types of issues can help your business,” she said. “Involving yourself in these political issues, right now, can make great changes that improve your business.”

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About the Author

Jason Knott, Editor, CE Pro
Jason has covered low-voltage electronics as an editor since 1990. He joined EH Publishing in 2000, and before that served as publisher and editor of Security Sales, a leading magazine for the security industry. He served as chairman of the Security Industry Association’s Education Committee from 2000-2004 and sat on the board of that association from 1998-2002. He is also a former board member of the Alarm Industry Research and Educational Foundation. He is currently a member of the CEDIA Education Action Team for Electronic Systems Business. Jason graduated from the University of Southern California.

12 Comments (displayed in order by date/time)

Posted by CS  on  05/27  at  10:34 PM

I call bull****.  You cannot participate in a sexist government program.  Here’s a thought: How about try to get your bids accepted based upon the merits of said bid, rather than based upon legislated sexism.

Posted by Taylor B  on  05/27  at  11:34 PM

So basically, she can’t compete on even footing and wants preferential treatment. This is par for the course with minorities and women with respect to the federal government, and the issue at hand is we can no longer afford to subsidize losers.

Posted by Funcuz  on  05/28  at  09:48 AM

So let me see if I’ve got this straight :
We don’t want a meritocracy anymore because it worked too well . 

Is that about right ?  It seems to be the case .  If women aren’t starting enough IT firms (or companies in any industry for that matter) that’s their choice .  The idea that women are some minority group (they actually make up the slight majority of the population) and need help from the government to make choices they’re already freely entitled to make suggests that somebody drafting policies and dispensing public funds doesn’t realize that the public includes 0 of the population .

Women need no more help than do men .  In fact , statistically , since women are the majority of university students , it seems more reasonable to give men grants and other incentives to start a business .  Hey , it makes just as much sense .

Posted by ZimbaZumba  on  05/28  at  12:19 PM

So in essence this womans behemoth of a company gets preference over a promising start up.

Posted by Mark  on  05/28  at  03:42 PM

What about People with Red Hair? We want special treatment for gubment contracts too!
This is so ridiculous!

Posted by Julie Jacobson  on  05/29  at  08:49 AM

Red hair or handicapped people or Haitians or transgenders or business owners who grew up in foster care ...

Women are HARDLY the most disadvantage class out there.

Posted by Julie Jacobson  on  05/29  at  08:51 AM

Red hair or handicapped people or Haitians or transgenders or business owners who grew up in foster care ...

Women are HARDLY the most disadvantage class out there.

Posted by Morgan Harman  on  05/29  at  11:16 AM

This is the kind of legislation that only supports ridiculous work-arounds.  I know of several WOSB who are actually operated by the husband.  It would be interesting to research how often legislation actually benefits someone vs providing an avenue for speculators to work the system.

If you are relying on legislation for the success of your business, then I would not invest in your business, or hire you.

As a business owner, if a government job put unreasonble requirements on my business - I would not acquiesce just to land the job.

But that’s me - and I don’t profess to be model of success.  smile

Posted by 39 Cent Stamp  on  05/29  at  10:57 PM

What i want to know is…why isn’t that chick in the kitchen?

Posted by Jason Knott  on  05/30  at  08:38 AM

Which part of the law you think is more ridiculous? 1. The part that requires 5% of all government contracts go to WOSBs, or 2. The part that requires at least two WOSBs to bid on a job or all WOSBs are ineligible.

@TechSource—I agree that there are likely many integrators that are husband-and-wife owned and therefore qualify as a WOSB.

Posted by Not 39 Cent Stamp  on  05/30  at  11:03 AM

Damn, Stamp beat me to it… ;P

Posted by Mark  on  05/31  at  01:49 PM

Am I the only one who saw that photo and immediately thought of a bunny rabbit boiling in a pot?  smile

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