In a politically charged climate that seemingly spurs a daily gender debate - companies may question whether or not holding themselves out to the public as a womanowned business (“WOB”) will help or hurt their bottom line. To those female entrepreneurs on the fence: jump down from that fence, and consider the benefits associated with WOB status.

Among other things, WOBs enjoy unique financing and networking opportunities, contractual preference, increased visibility, and the halo effect. The halo effect describes the phenomenon where consumers have positive experiences with a certain brand, they form a brand loyalty bias in favor of that brand. When a company brands itself as a WOB, it has the potential to encourage other WOBs or supporters of WOBs to do business with and recommend that company to others. Perhaps the most measurable benefit relates to contractual preference. The U.S. federal government strives to award 5% of its contracting dollars to WOBs, and some companies have contracting policies that give preference to WOBs. For example, The Coca-Cola Company has a widely publicized supplier diversity program and partners with leading certifying bodies as part of an overall company initiative to contract with WOBs.

For companies seeking the opportunities and the benefits afforded to WOBs, there are a variety of certifications to choose from based on a company’s particular industry and customer base. For example, if your company is in an industry where federal government contracts are desired, the U.S. Small Business Administration (the “SBA”) offers a program for qualifying small businesses at least 51% owned and controlled by a woman or women who are U.S. citizens. To qualify, women must, among other requirements, manage the dayto-day operations and make long-term decisions for the company.

One highly recognized private certifying body is the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (“WBENC”). Qualifying for WBENC status is rigorous and requires similar ownership and control by a woman or women as discussed above with the SBA. The WBENC pays special attention to the composition of the company’s governing body and requires the highest defined officer position be held by a woman (i.e. the President or CEO). Among other benefits, such status grants certificate holders access to project opportunities via email blast and WBENC status can be used to support a company’s application with the SBA as support of its woman-owned status.

There are numerous other types of WOB certifications from local, state, and federal authorities as well as private certification bodies. The process for each depends on the requirements of the certifying entity, but often the applications are lengthy, time consuming, and require on-site visits/interviews. That said, the companies who obtain these various coveted WOB certifications and the women who run them share one thing in common: they are not afraid to roll up their sleeves and get to work.