Recently the US Government announced long awaited plans for a woman owned small business set aside program. This program allows Contracting Officers set aside contracts for eligible women owned small businesses, similarly to how they set aside for HUB Zone, Vet owned, or general small businesses.

To date, however, USAID (among other US Government Agencies) has not set aside any contracts using this mechanism. This is contradictory with the fact that USAID has a long history of supporting and using women-owned businesses, with the large number of eligible women owned small businesses offering services in every field, and with USAID’s gender integration approach in its programming.

Based on conversations with USAID’s Office of Small Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) and with OAA, we believe this is because:

  • Contracts officers are unfamiliar with the WOSB set aside program
  • Those who have heard of it may not understand the rules or may have misunderstood how it works
  • COs do not know how easy it is for them to do market research on SBAIC.ORG to find eligible and qualified WOSB.

SBAIC is partnering with Women Impacting Public Policy (one of the lead advocacy organizations who helped create the WOSB program) and with USAID to help address these challenges.

  • OSDBU and OAA are planning trainings for COs specifically on WOSB set aside program.
  • SBAIC will organize a networking meeting for COs to meet eligible and experienced WOSBs.
  • Below, we have a handy fact sheet (information provided by SBA) on how to use the WOSB program.

  1. Sign-up for the WOSB Repository through SBA’s General Login System (GLS)
  • A detailed guide on how to sign-up for both GLS and the WOSB Repository is in the Appendix of this presentation
  1. Determine a contract’s NAICS code eligibility
  • Make sure the NAICS code is one of the industries designated for this program; If the industry is:

o   Substantially underrepresented, you may do a WOSB set-aside

o   Underrepresented, you may do a EDWOSB set-aside

*A complete list of eligible NAICS codes is on

  1. Conduct market research to determine eligibility
  • FAR Part 10 outlines how to do the research using past acquisition history and the Dynamic Small Business Search engine:
  • Review the research and determine if the rule of 2 applies
  1. Notify all potential offerors
  • If you decide to do a WOSB or EDWOSB, be sure to notify all potential offerors in the solicitation (e.g., post in FedBizOpps, cover letter notification and/or pertinent FAR clauses)
  1. After you receive the offers, verify firms’ eligibility
  • Check CCR to make sure the small business offeror is a WOSB or EDWOSB (not Women-Owned Business)
  • Evaluate the offers based on the evaluation criteria set forth in the solicitation
  1. Verify the apparent successful offeror is eligible for award
  • Check the WOSB Program Repository to make sure all required documents have been submitted. *There is a Checklist of documents to look for in the  Contracting Officer’s Guide
  • If you find that the firm is not responsible, you must refer the matter to SBA for a Certificate of Competency determination
  1. Properly document the contract file
  • Include the type and extent of market research conducted
  • State that the NAICS code is for an industry the SBA designated as underrepresented (for EDWOSB set-asides) or substantially underrepresented (for WOSB set-asides)
  • Document that you checked the ORCA representation and WOSB Repository for the apparent successful offeror
  1. Issue a pre-award notification
  • According to FAR 15.503, you must provide pre-award  notification to unsuccessful offerors

Information from Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Federal Contract Program Training for Contracting Officers, SBA May 2011

Download the WOSB Fact Sheet