Need To Determine Whether Existing Federal Programs Can Meet the Needs of Women Entrepreneurs

Gao ID: CED-81-90 April 30, 1981

GAO reviewed the actions taken by the Small Business Administration (SBA) and the Interagency Committee on Women's Business Enterprise to promote women entrepreneurs and to suggest ways to improve such activities.

The SBA and the Interagency Committee have not given enough attention to using existing SBA and other Federal resources to meet the needs of women entrepreneurs. Their attention has been directed to designing new programs rather than determining whether existing Federal programs are or could be made responsible to women business owners. Many of the problems cited by women entrepreneurs are characteristic of small businesses and are not unique to women. On the other hand, social prejudices that were also identified, such as a credibility gap with contractors and bank loan officers, have undoubtedly intensified problems for some women. An Executive order requires that Federal departments take affirmative action in support of women's business enterprise through management, financial, and procurement assistance programs. The Interagency Committee was formed to help ensure that the order would be effectively executed, and the order directed SBA to support the Committee. An SBA Women's Business Enterprise Division was formed to give added visibility to SBA efforts to promote women's business enterprises, ensure that agency programs adequately considered the needs of women entrepreneurs, and provide staff support to the Interagency Committee. GAO found the lack of operating procedures to be a major problem for the Women's Business Enterprise Division. GAO also identified a need for better feedback from women receiving SBA assistance. GAO also found that the Interagency Committee has not provided adequate guidance to Federal agencies for implementing the Executive order.


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