Even when public sector institutions commit to policies that include a gender perspective, the knowledge and capacity are often lacking to ensure that women will be able to benefit from the specific initiative or intervention. More involvement is needed to better understand how high level policies can be activated to benefit women. Women’s organizations can play a key role in this process.
WIPP (Women Impacting Public Policy) is an excellent example of a women’s organization that filled the gap between policy and practice needed to facilitate the development and growth of women owned businesses (WOBs).
Co-founded by Barbara Kasoff in 2001, WIPP elevated the visibility of women business owners in the US using 3 key strategies:
- Information & training
- Advocacy & lobbying
Information & Training: WIPP educates WOBs on economic policy and current legislative initiatives that impact business health and growth. For example, in 1994, a US government procurement target was set so that 5% of annual spend for US government contracts should be awarded to WOBs. However, in spite of this policy, very few WOBs were able to bid and win government contracts. WIPP educated and provided training to WOBs regarding the procurement bidding process.
Advocacy & Lobbying: WIPP’s legislative strategy is to have the greatest possible impact for WOBs. WIPP representatives regularly meet with members of the US Congress, the White House and federal agencies to educate and lobby for legislative reforms.
It was only through years of concerted effort by WIPP, to educate WOBs on the application process as well as to lobby US government officials to modify contract requirements that the 5% annual women-owned small business procurement target was met in 2015. However, the third key strategy, Coalition-building, lay the groundwork for the other two strategies to succeed.
Coalition-building: From the onset, WIPP had a clear, strategic vision. Instead of acting alone on behalf of its own members only, WIPP formed a coalition of 79 women’s business organisations that represents over 4.7 million business women to create a unified and powerful voice for WOBs based on a platform of common economic issues such as US procurement policies and access to capital.
Barbara Kasoff served as WIPP’s President for 9 years and most recently served as WIPP’s President Emeritus. Her message was simple: If you don’t like the way government regulations affect your business, get involved. She led by example, facilitating billions of dollars in US government contracts to reach growing numbers of WOBs. We are grateful for and benefit from her visionary leadership!