A 25-year anniversary is something to celebrate—especially when it’s the anniversary of a landmark piece of legislation that ushered in a transformation in women’s enterprise development.
Today, NAWBO celebrates HR 5050, also known as the Women’s Business Ownership Act of 1988. This legislation led to an explosion in women’s entrepreneurship as women could finally take out their own busines loans. Before that, their hubands, fathers, sons—or any male relative for that matter—had to co-sign. HR 5050 was also the beginning of the Women’s Business Center program and National Women’s Business Council as well as the start of the U.S. Census Bureau finally including C Corporations when collecting and counting data on women-owned firms. It was truly transformational for women business owners then and now. In fact, for the past two-and-a-half decades since then, women-owned businesses have continued to grow at nearly twice the rate of all businesses.
To mark this special occasion, NAWBO has issued a media release highlighting the new wave of women’s entrepreneurship ushered in by HR 5050’s changes as well as the instrumental role NAWBO played in its passage. We have included this release in this October issue of Focus. Young women today—whether they are our daughters or young women entrepreneurs we are helping to mentor—may not realize what the women before them faced in opening and growing their own businesses. We want them to know how far we have come, and what still remains to be done, since they will be the ones to carry on this important cause in the future, on their own and as members of NAWBO.
In this spirit, I ask you to take time out of your busy schedule to do one thing today: Talk to a young woman in business about HR 5050 and its impact. As Virginia Littlejohn, who was part of the NAWBO leadership team who helped the House Small Business Committee organize the HR 5050 hearings, says, “Women business owners today are often shocked to hear about the challenges their predecessors faced only 25 years ago.”
Also, in the weeks ahead, I encourage you to find and use your public policy voice. HR 5050 created a powerful voice for women entrepreneurs across the U.S. It’s because of this legislation that I have a thoughtful, professional voice in my home state of Indiana, where I have worked tirelessly to ensure minority and women-owned businesses received their fair share of procurement opportunities with projects like the Indianapolis International Airport, Lucas Oil Stadium and JW Marriott Indianapolis, as well as at the national level in Washington, DC.
Here’s to another 25 years of this landmark legislation! Let us not forget how far we have come and continue to mentor and encourage the young women following in our footsteps.
—Billie Dragoo, NAWBO National Chair and Interim CEO