NEW YORK (AP) — Pamela Prince-Eason isn't letting women business owners off the hook — if they want more contracts with big corporations or the government, they have to work harder to get them than they do now.
The CEO of the Women's Business Enterprise National Council, an organization that helps women-owned companies win those contracts, says it's not just corporations standing in women's way. These owners, even some of WBENC's members, need to be more aggressive.
"There are still many people who join our organization and say, now that I'm part of the network, that means so-and-so is just going to do business with me. That's just absolutely not so," Prince-Eason says.
WBENC was founded in 1997 to help women business owners get government and big corporate contracts. It was at a time when major corporations and the government didn't believe that women, like minorities, had a hard time getting such contracts, Prince-Eason says — whether because of a lack of relationships or because their companies were seen as too small or inexperienced. While there were groups and government programs to help minorities, women were on their own.
The organization's members include 12,000 women-owned businessses and nearly 300 corporations and government agencies. WBENC certifies businesses as being majority owned by women, or at least 51 percent, a credential big companies and the government are looking for. It provides training, mentoring and networking events, and also helps owners find companies to partner with on large contracts.
Women need to actively pursue networking and partnering if they want to work with big business and government, Prince-Eason says.
Prince-Eason sees progress in getting corporate and government contracting officers to work with women-owned businesses, especially in the last three to four years. But there's still much work to be done, she recently told The Associated Press. Here are excerpts from the interview, edited for brevity and clarity:
Q. Why should big corporations care about doing business with women-owned companies?
A. Women make the vast majority of decisions in consumer industries, and in industries you'd think of as male-dominated, like the automotive industry. Corporations have come to realize the people who buy from them are not only white males. They're recognizing in order to create better products they have to have the right input from the people who use them. The decision maker is changing. It's no longer the male of the household making decisions. That's what I believe has opened the door for corporations to be more interested in doing business with suppliers that are headed by women. The way in which we think and provide feedback and options will be different by virtue of the fact we're female.
Look at the history of buying cars. It used to be men were the only ones who could even get loans to buy cars. Now 85 percent of the decisions to buy a car are done by females. That's because more children are getting cars. When parents go out to look, it's the woman who cares about the safety of the child.