The construction field is incredibly competitive. While it’s both exciting and fulfilling to those who are cut out for it, no one can argue it’s an easy road to wealth.
Historically, the industry has been overwhelmingly dominated by men. In fact, even today women make up just 9.1 percent of the construction industry in the United States, according to the NAWIC. The number of female-owned construction firms is similarly very small, in comparison to those owned by men, at just 13 percent.
So, in an industry that’s already challenging, and with the odds seemingly stacked against them, where’s the good news for women looking to lead and succeed in construction firm ownership?
The mission of the WBENC
Founded in 1997, the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) certifies the largest number of businesses owned by women in the U.S. and is a leading advocate for female business owners and entrepreneurs.
“We believe diversity promotes innovation, opens doors, and creates partnerships that fuel the economy. That’s why we provide the most relied upon certification standard for women-owned businesses and the tools to help them succeed,” WBENC explains on its website.
As we’ll see, this certifying organization has established a powerful network of solutions that female construction firm owners across the country can use to enhance their offerings and to better position themselves to compete in this male-dominated industry.
But, what’s the value in a certification?
The WBENC Certification validates that a business is at least 51 percent owned, controlled, operated, and managed by one or more women. The certification standard is accepted by numerous corporations, states, cities, and the federal government.
This seemingly simple verification has wide-reaching implications when you consider the plethora of laws on the books in various jurisdictions incentivizing public and private entities to do business with organizations owned by minorities and women. Certified companies are in a better position to compete for real-time business opportunities provided by WBENC corporate members and government agencies throughout the country.
As outlined on the WBENC website, official certification as a woman-owned business brings with it a host of additional benefits:
Certification provides access to a current list of supplier diversity and procurement executives at hundreds of major U.S. corporations and federal, state and local government entities that accept WBENC certification. The WBENC is also an approved certifier for the Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Federal Contracting Program administered by the United States Small Business Administration (SBA).
Certified organizations can access mentoring, education, and capacity development through the WBENC, including:
Eligibility to receive a Dorothy B. Brothers Scholarship - up to $11,000 in tuition to attend some of the best executive education programs in the country. This is the same type of executive development that is available to Fortune 500 Companies, and is designed to help female business owners “formulate and implement business strategies and achieve a competitive advantage in the new millennium.”
Eligibility to participate in IBM’s Tuck-WBENC Executive Program - a six-day experience focused on skill development to increase business capacity, operations, and leadership. “This six-day intensive course is designed for WBEs and their executive teams who are ready to plan and execute a business strategy that will elevate their company to the next level.”
Workshops and keynotes at WBENC national events - including WBENCLink Training, the Conference Prep Webinar Series, articles in the WBENC blog, newsletter and website, and access to a robust community of support among WBENC-Certified companies.
Promote Your Business
The WBENC has invested a lot of time and resources into promoting the “Women Owned” initiative nationwide, and all certified organizations can take advantage of that visibility and branding by using the Women Owned logo on signage, documentation, and promotional materials.
They also provide a press release template to help newly certified companies announce their status in the community and in industry publications. Additionally, certified organizations are eligible to promote their business through sponsorship of WBENC national events.
The WBENC also coordinates numerous “events and networking opportunities for women-owned businesses, supplier diversity experts, government and corporate procurement professionals, and other industry and thought leaders throughout the U.S.”
Combining meaningful education and skill development with effective networking opportunities enhances the potential business success of all who attend.
The organization seeks to address the challenges many women face in building and growing a business. To assist, they provide support and resources applying to every aspect of entrepreneurship. “Our goal is to ensure women business owners have access to the education, support, and tools they need to grow and succeed.”
WBENCLink2.0, a database that connects Corporate and Government Members to certified member businesses and businesses to each other.
WBENC Insights, an exclusive online resource library featuring industry research, webinars, interviews, toolkits and more.
Entrepreneurship news, best practices, inspiration and success stories shared on the WBENC Blog, social media, and monthly newsletter.
Public awareness campaigns to promote women-owned businesses and those who support them.
Can the WBENC help you?
Basically, if your construction firm is at least 51 percent owned and operated by women, the answer is a resounding “yes!”
The real question is whether your company is set up to take advantage of what WBENC certification has to offer. In the construction field, to take advantage of these opportunities — especially those involving government contracts — firms need to make sure there are no issues regarding compliance to federal, state, and local regulations that could stand in the way of competing effectively once opportunities present themselves. And, that’s one area where certification doesn’t provide a leg up on the competition.
So, if you’re in a position to benefit from all that WBENC certification has to offer, conduct a review of your current safety, workforce data, access control, and other compliance-related processes to ensure nothing is standing in the way of those benefits. Once you’ve done so, you can begin to reap all of the benefits of WBENC certification.