Woman speaking at a business meeting. Washington is working to expand state agency and higher education contracts and procurement with certified minority- and women-owned businesses.
Blog Post

Obtaining Work as a Certified Woman-Owned Business

  • Date Posted: March 12, 2024

For female entrepreneurs, government contracting in the state of Washington represents a growing opportunity.

Washington is working to expand state agency and higher education contracts and procurement with certified minority- and women-owned businesses. According to the Washington State Office of Minority & Women’s Business Enterprises 2022 Annual Report, in 2022, state agencies and Educational institutions spent more than $178 million with such firms. About $72.5 million was with women-owned businesses.

In construction projects for state infrastructure, for example, major contractors include goals for women-owned, as well as veteran and minority businesses, to win bids for projects. In a recent $700 million project in Washington, the winning contractor committed to 10% minority-owned, 6% women-owned, 5% veteran-owned, and 5% small business.

Contractors work with consultants to push those levels beyond that 26% of the job by as much as 10%, said Danica Mason, Principal at Red Team Go! Mason founded her company in 2010 to provide inclusion management consulting to heavy civil, transportation, and water utility projects.

The mindset of large contractors is moving toward prioritizing minority and women-owned businesses. “We know the small, disadvantaged business community is not necessarily the cheapest; they’re not the low bidders a lot of the time, but if they can come within 10%, we need to consider it,” she said. “We also need to open those doors by working with them when they need bonding and insurance.”

Certified women-owned businesses are designated a “Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE)” and Minority Business Entrepreneurs (MBE) by the state of Washington, which follows the federal certification guidelines. To obtain it, owners share their operating agreements and bylaws, proof of ownership, and three years of personal and business tax returns. If married, the state often requests a spouse’s resume.

“They will also interview to ensure the business is, in fact, majority women-owned,” Mason said. “It has to be truly 51% majority-owned by a woman. And there can be major consequences for companies that aren’t truthful in obtaining the designation. These can become a full investigation by the state inspector general.”

Once a business becomes certified, it can’t assume it will receive contracts. Mason suggested a starting place to gauge their readiness to earn contracts:

  • Report who you worked for; did you meet the project’s schedule and budget?
  • Are you financially sound?
  • Do you have your bonding in place?
  • Do you have the correct insurance?
  • Can you provide references?
  • Are you prepared to be a part of the bidding process?

“The lack of answers to each of these doesn’t preclude you from government contracting,” Mason explained. “We can often work with companies on bonding and insurance.”

Mason said she would have certified her business as woman-owned with the state earlier, close to when she founded it in 2010. “I would base the certification I chose based on the work I am going after,” she said. “Most states will require you to be certified through their equivalent OMWBE.”

Learn what state certifications are available for women and minority-owned business owners and learn from local certified business owners and leaders about their experiences, the benefits, challenges, and opportunities certification provides in our free guide.