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. 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.
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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.”
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. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Jason at [email protected]
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