Australia is one of the leading countries to start, own and operate a business. Australia ranks second in the world as an ideal place to operate a social enterprise in. Over the past decade two thirds of new businesses launched in Australia have been founded by women. While there has been a 46% increase in women owning businesses over the past two decades.
What is the state of female-led businesses in Australia?
Globally women own 34% of businesses, while in Australia 30% of businesses are female owned. This places Australia 8th on the Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs (MIWE). Since 2017 the MIWE has quantified the differences between 58 countries on their financial, political, economic, and cultural environments with respect to women entrepreneurs.
Across Australia there are a burgeoning number of female focused business programs, communities, and networks available to women. Local councils, state and federal govts are slowly awakening to the value of investing in and supporting women entrepreneurs.
The New South Wales (NSW) government for example, has recently launched a state wide program to help women start, operate, and grow their business. The program offers a range of free and subsidised services including funding, training, and networking.
But are all these programs making a difference at the grass roots of business across the country? Are female led businesses in Australia seeing more success for the support on offer? To answer these questions, I reached out to three leading Australian business women to gain their insights in to what Australia’s female entrepreneurs need to ensure success.
What is the take of leading Aussie female entrepreneurs?
Andrea Turner-Boys the Founder and CEO of Women With Altitude, has been leading her business community for over a decade. Women With Altitude have 13 chapters across New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory and provide business advice, mentoring, education, and support. They also convene the Altitude Awards, a national business awards program that highlights the success and impact of business women from across Australia.
“There are plenty of women and firms working to improve the success rate of female entrepreneurs in Australia. We need to implement, to sit alongside all of the important skills like financial intelligence, mindset, confidence and business acumen, is a deep attitudinal change across ingrained misogyny and opportunities in all sectors,” Explains Turner-Boys.
“I have over 20 year of business experience and I still see men dominating tenders and being awarded grants and funding more often than their female counterparts,” said Turner-Boys.
“Male entrepreneurs get more doors opened for them. Female starts-ups and women led small businesses are often not taken as seriously. Solo business women starting with little capital are trivialised as hobbies. These women are focussed, determined, and driven to innovate and thrive. What they need is an even playing field to ensure their success.”
“We also need to teach our girls and young women the value of building communities and networks for themselves. With connection and community, we help to ease the burden of women trying to do everything themselves. Business ownership can be an isolating path.”
“Business women need to come together, connect, and be supported to be able to stay the course and be successful over the longer term,” concluded Andrea Turner-Boys.
The Academy of Entrepreneurs is an award winning firm that empowers students with the entrepreneurial skills to set up, launch and scale social impact businesses both in Australia and across the globe. Founder and CEO works and interacts with entrepreneurs around the globe.
Paula Mills experience has shown her, “Globally female entrepreneurs face similar problems, regardless of their age, culture, or level of education. Women will not put themselves forward until that are 100% across all areas of the work, business opportunity, or project. Men on the other hand like a challenge and easily accept new opportunities,” she commented.
“If I could change one thing for female entrepreneurs, I would ensure every woman received training in Emotional Intelligence (EI) and confidence building. Women need to know that they can do anything! They can be agile! Learning and building as they go! Women do not need to be across every aspect of business before they launch their idea. Women need to step outside their comfort zone, challenge themselves to be more courageous!” says Mills.
“Thinking it’s not possible to be successful in business, is no longer an excuse. Women need to be willing to take a no, bounce back, and move their innovation forward! Learning practical skills in EI would enable women to be more emotionally resilient. Women can do it!”
Lastly, I spoke with entrepreneur and business leader Lyn Hawkins. Hawkins is the Co-Founder and Director of Business Women Australia (BWA). The mission of BWA is to build a network of influence and create opportunities to improve the visibility of business women in Australia. BWA was founded in Perth, Western Australia. They host events across Australia.
Hawkins said, “Better access to finance and backing for women entrepreneurs is needed! Better policies to encourage and increase women’s ability to work and establish enterprises.”
“Investing in female-led businesses does not only generate good outcomes for people and profits, and our economy – but also the planet. Encouraging and promoting female founders, female CEOs, and women on boards to receive the funding they need to succeed. Investors, professional and retail, need to wake up and invest in women-owned and led businesses.”
Which research aligns with the entrepreneurs’ take?
In 2019 the Australian Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources (DISER) conducted a nationwide consultation to uncover the key challenges female entrepreneurs encounter in Australia. The survey found that women engaging in innovative entrepreneurship and growing start-ups need access to funding and capital, to have relevant information, networks, mentors, and support available to them, and to build their confidence.
These findings are in alignment with the insights shared by Turner-Boys, Mills and Hawkins who are dealing with female entrepreneurs daily. Aussie business women need to be made aware that there is coin, connection and courage available to help them succeed in business.
Research by AsiaLink in 2020 found that by boosting the number of women entrepreneurs in Australia, they in turn could contribute between $71–$135bn to the Australian economy, and up to $7 trillion globally. It is time for Australian women to find their entrepreneurial spirit and to show the world what Australian business and Australian female entrepreneurs can achieve.