A couple of months ago at the height of the pandemic, Small Business Women Australia commissioned a survey which fielded the opinions and concerns of 1,197 female business owners in regards to running a business during COVID-19 and their post-pandemic business future.
As businesses and the economy wake from our COVID-19 slumber (or perhaps better phrased as a nightmare), we finally enter this phase of recovery we have all been anxiously waiting for.
We now start to take stock and look ahead. But we need to ask how is the path ahead being paved for our women business owners to successfully make this recovery and continue and grow their businesses in a post-COVID-19 economy?
Just under half of these business owners believed it would be their personal resilience that would see them through, and 75% of those surveyed felt very to extremely confident of being able to have their recovery be made in full.
This is a great sentiment and mindset to have and shows that these women know what they need and want.
This does not mean though that these women should be forging this recovery path on their own.
Government stimulus packages such as JobKeeper and the tax cash boosts have no doubt been effective when the biggest challenge faced by our business owners was the immediate loss of income (as indicated by 42% of survey participants).
But these measures are temporary.
Confusion and lack of clarity as to what comes next for these women is at the forefront of their minds. One-in-three want to know where they go from here.
I can tell you, 44.95% of them are looking to new innovations and opportunities to bolster their businesses and ensure their survival.
There are four gaps which we know exist, missed opportunities as such, and if plugged, will help pave the way for the recovery of these women’s businesses.
I wager that it is in the government’s best interest to provide further support on these issues, and one-in-five of the women surveyed agreed.
We need to help these businesses succeed to help speed up and ease the recovery process. This in turn will stimulate the economy.
1. Free or subsidised childcare
Childcare reform has been a topic of concern voiced by female entrepreneurs for some time now.
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The affordability, or lack thereof, is considered crippling and the current childcare subsidy is deemed as a disincentive for women who want to work more.
When financial hardship is still evident six months on from COVID-19, making key essentials such as affordable childcare almost unattainable is doing nothing to ease the burden of loosed income. Many of these women business owners already suffer the financial effects of the gender pay gap, which increases considerably when they have children.
It is reported that for every dollar which is spent on childcare though, $2 is injected into the economy. The government showed initiative here when they made childcare free through the height of the pandemic.
This, once again, was temporary.
A more permanent solution will ensure the pay gap is narrowed and women can be presented in leadership and entrepreneur capacity at an increased rate with benefit to all.
2. Increase female quotas in government tenders
New York has committed to awarding $25 billion worth of government contracts to small minority-owned and women-owned business entrepreneurs by 2025 (up from an original $16 billion).
By extending these opportunities to women, the obstacles faced by these business owners are muted, opening the door to fresh talent and expertise.
This initiative has proven successful so far in its own right, and is something the Australian government should look to model, at no less than 30% of the total contracts being awarded.
3. GST and company tax breaks
Recent income tax cuts have been a relief for many, but in order to stimulate business growth, it is imperative that concessions are made for GST and company tax.
It hardly seems productive to continue to see small businesses hit with paying GST on expenses such as commercial property leases. Many of these women are struggling to make their commercial rent payments and keep afloat.
While the government has urged landlords and tenants to work together and negotiate in “good faith” when it comes to rental payments and lease agreements, these policymakers have the ability to offer instant relief and ease some of the burden.
They need to step in and step up with an offer of GST-free business expenses for small businesses during the pandemic period and subsequent recovery as well.
We should also be advocating for lower company taxes for women whose businesses are in their infancy during the pandemic.
This reduction in tax needs to be for a set period of time to encourage them to not just continue with their business venture, but do so without running at a loss.
Providing business with additional cash could encourage expenditure, wage increases and further training and development in areas which were highlighted as important to these women’s business growth such as social media and digital marketing as well as skills in increasing their clientele.
4. More government-funded mentoring programs for women
The government needs to not just invest in these women’s businesses, but invest in the women themselves.
A continued focus on providing women with the tools and strategies to grow their businesses means they are more likely to succeed as government funding and support is wound back.
By delivering leadership skills and empowerment to these entrepreneurs we are ensuring their recovery is stable and provides them with successful networking opportunities, which just under 20% of those surveyed believed would be the defining facet of their recovery.
These female business owners have shown their resilience and determination and continue to push for their recovery as well as that of our economy.
By filling the gaps for them, we are concreting their path and ensuring that their chances of success are increased.
Recovery requires more than their resilience, it requires action.