Women CEOs: RFI responses critical to more set-asides

Woman-owned small business contractors should respond to sources sought notices from agencies as a way to increase the government’s use of set-aside contracts for that category, a panel of female chief executives said Friday.

Speaking at an Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce-hosted event in Arlington, Virginia, the CEOs said doing that is the only way to get agencies to know that woman-owned businesses or WSBs are out there and ready to step up for contract work.

“When a government contracting officer puts out an (request for information) for market research, WSBs have to respond to that market research so they see there are WSBs that can do this work,” Constellation West Founder and CEO Lisa Wolford said. “If the market research doesn’t support it, there will not be a set aside. That’s just a fact.”

In lieu of set asides for WSBs, some have the option of using another set-aside category to pursue contracts exclusively for small businesses. Wolford said she has found the WSB status “didn’t matter unless you had another checkbox to add to it.”

The overarching theme is make sure procurement officials know what is out there, according to MTEQ CEO Mary Williams.

“I think we need to educate the contracting offices that they are available to do this and they can do this,” Williams said. “We might want to look for an advocacy for that because it’s hard to start a business and get your first contract.

“It is something that should give you an opportunity but we need contracting officers to do it, if you have something to provide to a client and they can do a (woman-owned) set aside why wouldn’t they do it?”

About the Author

Ross Wilkers is a senior staff writer for Washington Technology. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter: @rosswilkers. Also connect with him on LinkedIn.

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