According to an independent study by BBC Research and Consulting, Caucasian women business owners in Washington State no longer face discrimination and may no longer qualify for special designation by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
In light of the study, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) is asking the federal government for a waiver that would remove Caucasian women-owned firms from WSDOT’s Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBE) goals.
WSDOT’s waiver request is based upon statistical evidence generated by the disparity study. The study revealed that Caucasian women-owned firms actually received more contract dollars than expected, given their availability for work. Lacking evidence of discrimination against Caucasian women-owned businesses in the local marketplace, WSDOT cannot include them in contract-specific DBE goals.
Caucasian women business owners are threatening to sue the state if they are removed from the list of discriminated groups and have formed an organization, Women in Highway Construction, to fight the change.
Colleen Hallett, owner of Mobile Electrical Distributors in Seattle, told a local news affiliate that the transpiration industry is still controlled by men.
“They (men in the industry) don’t want to talk to you, they don’t want to deal with you, they’re very uncomfortable dealing with you. I have salesmen come in here and bypass me and go straight to my male employees even though I’m the boss.”
Despite the industry being male-dominated, the WSDOT disparity study found that Caucasian women-owned firms outperformed expectations and continued to attract business, while other minority-owned firms did not.
The disparity study found that other minority groups continue to suffer “substantial disparities,” including businesses owned by African American, Asian-Pacific Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans and South Asians.
“While the other firms (minority groups) got little to no work, white women-owned firms continued to get work for that time (considered in the study). That was good for that group, but the other firms didn’t get much work,” said Brenda Nnambi, WSDOT’s Director of the Office of Equal Opportunity.
One business owner claimed the ruling was “A war on White women.”
“This is a war on white women, and we’re not going to take it sitting down,” said Mary Guthmiller, who owns DBE Electric. “It’s going to cost the state of Washington a lot more grief and trouble to fight an injunctive action which we are willing to take if necessary to protect our right to be able to exist as businesses and participate in the program that we fought hard alongside our other minority businesses to even have any little bit of this construction dollar.”
This ruling by the WSDOT is interesting on a few levels. While women continue to strive for economic parity with men, I can’t help but be a little amused by the uproar over declassifying White women as a discriminated group.
While many, including several White women, have derided Affirmative Action programs as handouts for African-Americans and other minority groups, the biggest beneficiaries of Affirmative Action programs have been White women.
What’s the saying? You don’t know what you got till it’s gone? Caucasian female business owners in Washington may just learn what that means.