Small Business:

Participation in SBA's 8(a) Business Development Program

RCED-91-173: Published: Jun 11, 1991. Publicly Released: Jul 16, 1991.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the extent to which nonminority women participated in the Small Business Administration's (SBA) 8(a) program, focusing on: (1) the number of Caucasian women in the program; (2) the number of women who sued SBA to gain entry; and (3) the criteria SBA uses to determine whether Caucasian women and others are socially disadvantaged.

GAO found that: (1) 16 Caucasian women had participated in the program since 1973; (2) as of February 1991, only 9 of the 3,665 active participants in the 8(a) program were Caucasian women; (3) of the 16 women, 12 entered the program without suing SBA, while the 4 remaining women brought 3 lawsuits against SBA to gain or regain entry into the program; (4) each lawsuit alleged that SBA discriminated against each woman on the basis of her sex, race or marital status; (5) as of April 1991, suits by 2 Caucasian women seeking entry into the 8(a) program were pending; (6) SBA did not designate women to be socially disadvantaged for purposes of participating in the program, and required those seeking entry into the program to provide clear convincing evidence that they suffered racial or ethnic prejudice or cultural bias; and (7) the 5 criteria for demonstrating evidence of social disadvantage included showing that the women's disadvantage stemmed from her color, ethnic origin, or other similar causes not common to persons not socially disadvantaged, was rooted in the treatment experienced in American society, was chronic and substantial, was personally experienced, and negatively affected the applicant's entry into and advancement in the business world.