IWD 2019: Programs and Certifications For Woman-Owned Businesses

Mar 8, 2019 2:48:27 PM / by Hayden Johnson


March 8, 2019 marks the 109th annual observance of International Women’s Day (IWD). On top of that, March is also recognized in the U.S. as Women’s History Month. So in the spirit of IWD and Women's History Month, let's talk about the various certifications and resources that are exclusively available for female entrepreneurs. Mainly, we'll be talking about the Woman-Owned Business Certification and the Woman-Owned Small Business Set-Aside.

Although they sound similar in name, these are two different certifications that bring along their own advantages. So in this blog post, we’re going to cover:

  • What they are
  • Their benefits
  • How to get certified

Let’s go.

wbenc-logoWoman-Owned Business Certification

The Woman-Owned Business Certification originates from the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, commonly known as the WBENC. The WEBENC is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to economic growth by identifying woman-owned businesses and providing them with various resources to help them succeed. They’re almost like a global chamber of commerce just for woman-owned businesses.


Although the Woman-Owned Business Certification is not an official federal certification, it is still recognized by many government agencies as well as other companies. This certification lets an entity tap into WBENC resources such as:

  • Business conferences
  • Mentoring, education, and capacity development
  • Promotion and use of the Woman-Owned Logo
  • Advocacy
  • Networking among other woman-owned businesses


The Woman-Owned Business Certification can only be done through the WBENC. To qualify, your business must:

  • Be at least 51% owned and controlled by women
  • Have at least 51% of the equity owned and controlled by women (if publicly owned)

The certification process with the WBENC comes in two main segments. First, there will be a review of the required documentation that you need to submit for the Woman-Owned Business Certification. Then, there will be a site visit along with an interview of the women owners of the business. There are fees for this certification, but they come in different ranges based on the revenue produced by the business.

Full instructions on the certification process can be found right here.

Woman-Owned Small Business Set-Aside

Now it's time to go over the Woman-Owned Small Business Set-Aside also known as the WOSB. The WOSB set-aside was established by the U.S. Federal Government to level the economic playing field for female entrepreneurs. Every year, the government seeks to award 5% of its total contracting dollars toward WOSBs.

That's around $5,000,000 up for grabs just for woman-owned small businesses.


The WOSB set-aside certification provides several advantages for female entrepreneurs seeking to enter the government contracting (a proven way to scale your business). Here are just some of the benefits:

  • Sole source, non-compete contracting opportunities
  • More bid opportunities and subcontracting opportunities
  • Increased visibility in the federal marketplace


Compared to the Woman-Owned Business Certification, the WOSB set-aside has slightly different requirements. Entities applying for the WOSB set-aside must meet the following criteria:

  • 51% owned and controlled by women who are U.S. citizens
  • Women owner-operators have to be involved with day-to-day operations as well as long term planning
  • Registered in the System for Award Management
  • Meet the SBA size standards for a small business


In certain circumstances, a woman-owned small business may be considered to be economically disadvantaged (EDWOSB). Not only do EDWOSBs have their own exclusive opportunities, but they can also bid on WOSB opportunities. These extra requirements include:

  • The women owner-operators each have to have a net worth of less than $750,000
  • In the last 3 years, each of these owner-operators needs to have an adjusted gross income of $350,000 or less
  • Their personal assets must be less than or equal to $6 million each

Businesses wishing to certify for the WOSB set-aside can opt to self-certify with the SBA. However, there is also the option of having a third-party take care of this process. Getting professional help from an entity such as USFCR ensures that the certification process is taken care of quickly and accurately. This lends you time to just focus on your buisness and preparing to enter the federal market place.

Supporting Woman-Owned Businesses

On International Women's Day and Women's History Month, we take time to think about all the accomplishments made by women all across the globe and across history. We also must reflect on and bring awareness to the issues that women face today.

One of these major issues that you see all across the world is gender economic inequality. All though some progress has been made over the years, there is still a lot of work to be done to close the gender pay gap and create an equal economic playing field for women. That's why programs such as the Woman-Owned Business Certification and WOSB Set-Aside are so important. By supporting female entrepreneurs and women-owned businesses today, we can get closer to a fairer and better tomorrow.

"Failure is impossible." 

- Susan B. Anthony

Tags: Guides

Hayden Johnson

Written by Hayden Johnson

Hayden is USFCR's Creative Copywriter. His goal is to help businesses navigate the federal marketplace with quick and simple guides.