Marking a Milestone: H.R. 5050 Turns 30

Dec 7, 2018 | Uncategorized

From a White Paper and Media to Chapter Events, NAWBO Knows How to Celebrate


Loreen Gilbert moderates a National Women’s Business Council panel of H.R. 5050 trailblazers. 

There’s a lot to celebrate on the 30th anniversary of landmark legislation—H.R. 5050, otherwise known as The Women’s Business Ownership Act of 1988—that opened some major doors for women business owners across the United States. In fact, it changed the way we open and grow our businesses and how our contributions to the national economy are researched and reported.

Kelly Scanlon presents Virginia Littlejohn with a proclamation from the State of Kansas for her work on H.R. 5050.

Just 30 years ago, some U.S. states had laws preventing women from obtaining business loans without a male relative to cosign for them. The National Women’s Business Council, which does research into the women’s business ecosystem, and the Women’s Business Centers, managed by the U.S. Small Business Administration, did not exist. Additionally, the U.S. Census was not collecting data from woman-owned C corporations, and therefore, there was a common misconception that most woman-owned businesses were very small or the women were simply self-employed.

Thankfully, a group of women, including some leaders from NAWBO, worked with elected officials in Washington, D.C. to address those issues and remove those obstacles to women business owners. The legislation that resulted, H.R. 5050, established programs and initiated efforts to assist the development of small businesses owned and controlled by women.

South Carolina Senator Tim Scott shared this video with the women of NAWBO-Charlotte to mark the milestone anniversary.

Many women business owners today don’t realize just how different it was for their entrepreneurial women predecessors 30 years ago. That’s why NAWBO National and our chapters and partners took this year to not only celebrate this milestone legislation, but also to inspire today’s women business owners to continue to think bigger, reach higher, speak out and blaze new trails. Here’s a look at some of these H.R. 5050 activities:

• NAWBO National embarked on a media relations campaign to remind and educate the world about just how far we’ve come since H.R. 5050 was signed into law on October 25, 1988. Read NAWBO’s official statement on the anniversary here. NAWBO’s Vice President of External Affairs Joy Lutes also penned this article on the impact of the legislation. Additionally, Loreen Gilbert, NAWBO Institute Chair and founder of WealthWise Financial Services, moderated a National Women’s Business Council panel of historical trailblazers in celebration. 

• A PNC-sponsored white paper, “Spotlight on H.R. 5050: The Bill that Changed Everything for Women Business Owners”, was released to reflect on the provisions that transformed the course for women business owners and highlight the current areas for improved policy and better women involvement.

• At this year’s National Women’s Business Conference hosted by NAWBO in Spokane, Washington, NAWBO leaders who were instrumental in advocating for H.R. 5050 shared their stories during a panel presentation at the Annual Membership Meeting. The Opening Reception also featured the surprise premier of an H.R. 5050 short film. About it, one attendee said, “On February 2, 1988 I brought my daughter into the world. I looked at her and I thought, ‘You can be anything you want to be and do anything you want to do.’ I did not know there were women that year and at that time making it possible for her. There’s a baton here that we have to catch and pass on to the women behind us. We have to ensure we continue making this progress for women.”

• NAWBO chapters across the country marked the milestone in their own unique ways, including:

  • NAWBO-Kansas City spotlighted H.R. 5050 during its Women in Business Summit featuring keynote speaker Virginia Littlejohn, who was one of three primary architects of the legislation. Additionally, Past NAWBO National Chair and NAWBO-Kansas City member Kelly Scanlon featured this interview with Virginia—on her Blog Talk Radio podcast. Listen to it here.
  • NAWBO-Kentucky held a Celebration of H.R. 5050 and Public Policy. The evening event was attended by Beth Marcello, director of women’s business development for PNC, sponsor of NAWBO’s H.R. 5050 white paper. Watch this video from NAWBO National’s Joy Lutes welcoming event guests.  
  • NAWBO-Charlotte honored National Women in Small Business Month and H.R. 5050 by bringing together businesswomen and partner organizations from across the city as well as local politicians for its 4th Annual Success in the Queen City event.
  • NAWBO-Greater Philadelphia was presented with a proclamation from the Philadelphia City Council celebrating NAWBO and the anniversary of H.R. 5050.
  • NAWBO-Minnesota celebrated H.R 5050 during its annual Achieve! Awards that recognized businesswomen and an advocate business that continue to break barriers in the spirit of the legislation.
  • NAWBO Buffalo/Niagara held a dinner and panel presentation featuring former Congressman John LaFalce, who was instrumental in getting H.R. 5050 passed, and Chapter Past President Joyce DeLong, who has been in business for three decades and shared her experience prior to the passing of H.R. 5050.
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