“A grim eight years”: Greens policy aims to even the playing field for women-led businesses

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Source: Unsplash/Toa Heftiba.

The Greens are initiating gender responsive support to women-led businesses, having just announced a new policy that will look at generating more employment and greater economic opportunities.

The policy will centre around growing women-led and female-founded businesses, particularly in regional areas, by establishing a $10 million micro-financing facility, and legislating procurement budgets.

“Women deserve support to harness their creative and innovative potential, and microfinance loans fit the bill,” says Greens deputy leader, Senator Larissa Waters.

Research has shown that women-led, owned and managed businesses with female executive leadership employ, on average, six times as many women as other businesses, and typically have strong parental leave and flexible working arrangements.

But these business, particularly in regional areas, often find it difficult to secure finance, with less access to capital due to geographical isolation, and often facing discriminatory attitudes from lenders, despite the calibre of staff or the quality of their product or service.

“It’s been a grim eight years for women under this 1950s government, compounded further by the pandemic which women bore the brunt of. Policies like this can really help,” says Waters.

This new policy, endorsed by Femeconomy and the Rural Woman, will include a micro-financing scheme to provide low-and no-interest loans up to $10,000 to women-led businesses in regional areas who struggle to access traditional finance.

“Our research has identified that for women-led businesses in rural areas, a loan of $10,000 or less would help them make significant progress, either to start a business or to scale up — whether that’s being able to employ an extra person, buy additional stock or run marketing campaigns,” says CEO of The Rural Woman, Rebel Black.

The Greens will also legislate to require government agencies to spend a minimum of 3% of their annual procurement budget with women-led businesses, which currently only access less than 1% of the global procurement market, despite making up 34.8% of Australian business.

“We’ve seen the success of gender equality procurement policies in the US, and the Indigenous Procurement Policy in Australia. These policies will work to grow Australia’s economy and advance equality,” says director of Femeconomy, Alanna Bastin-Byrne.

With this new policy in place to help women-led businesses to get off the ground, it will reduce the structural inequalities that have hindered women’s economic independence for generations, and play a greater role in closing the gender pay gap.

“Women-owned businesses represent women from all walks of life, allowing women to use their education, skills and training, and develop flexible working models around caring responsibilities. Practical policies that support these businesses are vital to closing the gender pay gap,” says Bastin-Byrne.

“This is not a zero sum game — when more women work, economies grow.”

This article was first published by Women’s Agenda.


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