WASHINGTON – Women entrepreneurs continue to have problems in getting loans and government contracts even though they own 35 percent of U.S. businesses, business leaders told a House panel Wednesday.
“We are starved for capital,” said Charlotte Taylor, president of Venture Concepts in Washington.
Terry Neese, former president of the Silver Spring-based National Association of Women Business Owners, said in order to get a loan for her own business she had to take her husband along.
“Finding capital and access to capital is extremely difficult,” Neese told the House Small Business subcommittee on government programs and oversight.
Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Frederick, chairman of the subcommittee, called the hearing to focus on the problems encountered by women entrepreneurs in securing capital and government contracts.
Business leaders told the subcommittee that access to capital is the main problem for women either starting or maintaining businesses.
Some women rejected for a business loan finance projects with credit cards.
“Financing with multiple credit cards is not only expensive but also hazardous to growth,” said Muriel Siebert of Muriel Siebert & Co., Inc. of New York.
For Victoria Nelson, chief executive officer of Jarnel Iron and Forge in Hagerstown, the issue is not one of access to capital, but of all the paperwork the Small Business Administration required for her loan.
“After careful review of the SBA loan costs, perhaps a commercial loan would really have been more economical in the long run,” she said.
Winning federal contracts also pose a problem for women- owned business, the business leaders said.
Jylla Foster, vice president of small and medium business for IBM, said “less than three percent of all government contracts are awarded to women.”
In order to expand contract opportunities for women, a 1994 law established a 5 percent goal for women-owned businesses.
“Contracts give women and minorities a base of business to help create non-governmental business,” Siebert said. “I believe in fairness and equity of these contracts.”
“Women-owned businesses want respect,” said Susan Bari, president of Women’s Business Enterprise National Council in Washington. “Respect is translated into dollars.”
“The federal government should do business with women-owned businesses because it is good business.”