The federal government’s goal is to award at least 5% of all federal contracting dollars to women-owned small businesses each year.

Program benefits

To help provide a level playing field for women business owners, the government limits competition for certain contracts to businesses that participate in the Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Federal Contracting program.

These contracts are for specific industries where WOSBs are underrepresented. Some contracts are restricted further to economically disadvantaged women-owned small businesses (EDWOSBs). SBA maintains a list of those eligible industries and their NAICS codes.

Joining the WOSB Federal Contracting Program makes a business eligible to compete for federal contracts set aside for the program. Firms can still compete for contract awards under other socio-economic programs they qualify for.

WOSB and EDWOSB certification improvements

The certification process for Women-Owned Small Businesses (WOSBs) and Economically Disadvantaged WOSBs (EDWOSBs) changed in 2020. SBA implemented Congress’ changes to the WOSB Federal Contracting program, as put forth in the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

These updated regulations make it easier for qualified small businesses to participate in the WOSB Federal Contracting program by improving the customer experience. At the same time, SBA is strengthening oversight and maintaining the integrity of the certification process.

The updated WOSB Federal Contracting program regulations were published in the Federal Register in May 2020. These regulations detail changes to the certification process.

With the updated WOSB Federal Contracting program regulations in effect:

  • SBA’s new, free online certification process for WOSBs and EDWOSBs is live at beta.certify.sba.gov
  • SBA allows continued participation from businesses that utilize approved Third-Party Certifiers (TPCs) to obtain WOSB or EDWOSB certification
  • As of October 15, 2020, the previous self-certification option on the old certify.sba.gov platform is no longer available
  • If you had contracts through the WOSB Federal Contracting Program when the changes went into effect, you will remain certified through the duration of existing contracts (whether you were previously self-certified or TPC-certified)
  • All WOSB firms need to take action in beta.certify.sba.gov in order to compete for WOSB Federal Contracting Program set-aside contracts (based on specifics in the following sections based on your status)

Review SBA’s latest FAQscertification options tableinfographics, and the following beta.certify.gov fact sheet for more information about the certification changes and the updated application process.

Firms can use the SBA Local Assistance tool to contact their local SBA regional and district office or Women’s Business Center with questions. In addition, the beta.certify.sba.gov Knowledge Base is a valuable resource for firms to get started learning about certification using how-to videos, user guides, and more!

Program eligibility requirements

To be eligible for the WOSB Federal Contracting program, a business must:

  • Be a small business according to SBA size standards
  • Be at least 51% owned and controlled by women who are U.S. citizens
  • Have women manage day-to-day operations who also make long-term decisions

To qualify as an EDWOSB within the program, a business must:

  • Meet all the requirements of the WOSB Federal Contracting program
  • Be owned and controlled by one or more women, each with a personal net worth less than $750,000
  • Be owned and controlled by one or more women, each with $350,000 or less in adjusted gross income averaged over the previous three years
  • Be owned and controlled by one or more women, each $6 million or less in personal assets

Economic disadvantage standards have been aligned between the 8(a) Business Development program and the WOSB Federal Contracting program. Additionally, funds invested in an official retirement account are excluded from the assessment of an economically disadvantaged individual’s personal net worth in both programs.  8(a) firms interested in pursuing EDWOSB certification may provide their most recent annual review letter or acceptance letter if in their first year through applying at beta.certify.sba.gov

SBA also allows participation from firms certified by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Center for Verification and Evaluations (CVE), provided they meet all eligibility requirements. Firms must provide their CVE certificate and supporting documentation through beta.certify.sba.gov

The eligibility requirements to qualify as a WOSB or an EDWOSB are fully defined in Title 13 Part 127 Subpart B of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). Fir