On February 4, 2011, the U.S. Small Business Administration is set to launch its Women-Owned Small Business Program, which is intended to create a set-aside structure for WOSBs similar to the existing 8(a) platform.  The overall goal of the new program is to expand federal contracting opportunities for women-owned businesses within 83 different industries (identified by NAICS code) where WOSBs have traditionally been underrepresented.  Some of the eligibility requirements for participation in the WOSB program include: (1) the company must be “small” in its primary industry in accordance with SBA size standards; (2) the company must be at least 51 percent directly and unconditionally owned by one or more women; and (3) control and day-to-day management of the company must be in the hands of one or more women.

The program rules authorize the set-aside of federal contracts for WOSBs or economically disadvantaged women-owned small businesses as long as the anticipated contract price does not exceed $3 million ($5 million for manufacturing contracts).  In the 45 industries where women have been identified as “underrepresented,” competition for set-aside awards may be restricted to WOSBs that have been certified as economically disadvantaged.  For contract awards in 38 industries where women are “substantially underrepresented,” competition may be restricted to all certified WOSBs.  Importantly, an award cannot be set-aside under the WOSB program unless there is a “reasonable expectation” that two or more WOSBs or EDWOSBs will bid.