Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Reporter's Notebook

Paul Leonard can be reached at

It’s hard to be a (business) woman

At least, that’s what I’ve been told.

Despite gains in female representation in statehouses, small businesses and boardrooms – a wide gender gap remains for women in business.

Again, that’s according to the women I’ve met at networking events, chamber of commerce functions and community meetings in the past year. And though much has been made about the recent “man-cession,” with data showing a comparatively high rate of unemployment among men, many women report a continuing gender imbalance in areas such as the awarding of federal contracts, promotions and small business loans.

More than 28 percent of all U.S. small businesses are owned by women, according to U.S. Small Business Administration data collected in 2002. And with that share even higher locally, equal access to customers, markets and contracts for these women-led companies is of great importance to Southwest Washington’s economy.

To counter the gender imbalance, the SBA announced on Wednesday the introduction of its Give Me 5 government contracting curriculum to its network of 110 Women’s Business Centers across the U.S., including its branch office in downtown Portland run by Mercy Corps NW. Introduced in 2008, the program looks to increase the number of government contracts awarded to women, with a goal of awarding at least 5 percent of all contracts to women-owned businesses.

On a local level, scores of female-centered networking events have given a growing number of women the chance to connect, commiserate and hopefully, make a few deals.

With that goal also in mind, the VBJ will publish its first annual Women In Business Directory, listing female business owners, managers and directors in the Vancouver-Portland area, on July 23.

For those businesses looking to participate, our online submission form can be found here. The deadline for submissions is Wednesday, June 16.