A woman looks out from her office
A woman looks out from her office - 
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JEREMY HOBSON: According to the latest tally from the Census Bureau, women own less than 30 percent of the nation's businesses. Well today the Small Business administration is taking a step to up that number by helping women-owned businesses win government contacts.

Marketplace's Nancy Marshall Genzer reports.

NANCY MARSHALL GENZER: Say I own a small business. Let's call it, Marshall-Genzer Enterprises. Starting today, I can certify online that my business is owned by a woman.

For the first time, federal contracting officers are actually setting aside contracts for certified, women-owned companies. The penalties for a business that misrepresents itself on a government website have been strengthened. SBA spokeswoman Hayley Meadvin says it'll be easier for the government to prove fraud.

HAYLEY MEADVIN: It gives the federal government a little bit of teeth to really make sure the small business contracts are flowing to the intended recipients.

The SBA will also be on the lookout for corporations that use woman-owned companies as fronts to get government contracts. There's just one problem. There aren't enough government workers overseeing the contracts.

Allison Stanger is an economist at Middlebury College.

ALLISON STANGER: If you want to insist that the law be upheld, you've got to have the bodies there, doing it.

Stanger says, in some cases, government contractors are overseen by, other contractors.

In Washington, I'm Nancy Marshall Genzer for Marketplace.