Strategy

AWCCI says female-run SMEs are missing out on contracts

Melinda Oliver /

The federal government needs to reveal how much of the $11 billion it has spent on SME supplier contracts went to businesses with female owners, the Australian Women Chamber of Commerce & Industry insists.

And corporates also need to demonstrate how many of their supplier contracts are going to female entrepreneurs, the industry body argues, in order to get a realistic picture of how badly female business owners are on the back foot.

AWCCI executive director Yolanda Vega told SmartCompany for too long the focus has been on the number of women appointed to boards, but it is time to shift attention to contracts awarded to businesses run by women.

“This is a ‘must have’ conversation for every business leader, procurement professional and CEO,” Vega says.

She cites Australian Bureau of Statistics data which shows there are now more women than men aged 33-45 years running businesses.

“Women are becoming self-employed in unprecedented numbers but don’t have access to contracts,” Vega says.

She says, internationally, women only procure 1% of all contracts, despite owning around 40% of businesses in Australia. She has asked for data from the government on the number of government contracts that are given to women, but says she was told it was not possible to find out.

“According to the Federal Department of Finance, we don’t have the technology to determine what businesses are winning government contracts,” says Vega.

“Apparently we are living in the Stone Age.”

Vega says in the US, 5% of all federal government contracts must go to women business owners, while some corporate businesses, such as Proctor & Gamble, report on the number of supplier contracts that are awarded to female-owned businesses.

Vega says that when she has approached corporates about the number of contracts awarded to female business, reaction has often been poor.

“I’ve been told, ‘I have no idea who (what gender) our suppliers are’,” she says.

“And I’ve been told ‘women aren’t trendy’ at the moment.”

She wants to see the government gather data on who it awards contracts to, and the same from big business.

“The Male Champions of Change have it in their radar but no targets have been set and the conversation is negligible,” she says.

In the lead up to International Women’s Day on March 8, AWCCI has launched a national campaign asking governments and business leaders to rectify this lack of reporting, and to become active in getting women into the supply chain.

AWCCI is asking small business owners to send a letter to the government and the Male Champions of Change to ensure women are included in supply chains.

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