Women-owned small businesses and government contracting: A qualitative study

The purpose of this descriptive qualitative case study is to identify barriers and challenges women small business owners (WOSBs) in the District of Colombia and the surrounding counties encounter during the United States Small Business Administration federal government contracting process. The general problem holds that women confront business challenges, especially when pursuing federal government contracts. Two theories guided this study: resource-based theory and socialist feminist theory. Additionally, two research questions were addressed, namely, What barriers do WOSBs encounter during the application process for the Small Business Association (SBA) federal government contracts? and What strategies do WOSBs use to overcome the barriers to acquiring SBA federal government contracts? The research sample for this qualitative case study was comprised of three African-American women between the ages of 35 and 50, who owned small businesses and have won at least one SBA federal government contract. One-on-one interviews and a focus group were conducted to allow the respondents to describe and discuss their experiences during the bidding and contracting process for federal contracts. During data analysis, four themes emerged: gender discrimination, pre-selection contract preference, business outreach and network development, and fostering contract officers’ relationships. The respondents asserted that they had all experienced forms of gender discrimination during the bidding and contracting process and that the system encouraged pre-selection contract preference, meaning that contracts often went to previous awardees and to bigger businesses. Recommendations for practice should include training contracting officers to minimize perceptions leading to gender-based restricted competition to enhance WOSB contracting opportunities.

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