A time for change

Here at SmartCompany we have always been huge supporters of Australia’s female entrepreneurs.

We celebrate their successes through our annual Top 30 Female Entrepreneurs list. We’ve campaigned for greater female representation on boards and executive teams. We’ve suggested ways the business community can encourage female entrepreneurs to start and grow businesses.

We’ve produced eBooks on great female entrepreneurs. We’re proud to include great female entrepreneurs such as Naomi Simson, Sue Barrett, Eve Ash, Pollyanna Lentic, Marcia Griffin, Michel Hogan, Lara Solomon and Kirsty Dunphy as part of our team of experts and bloggers.

And our founder, Amanda Gome – herself one of the leaders of a very small group of female founders in the media sector – has hosted webinars, given speeches and written thousands of impassioned words encouraging female entrepreneurs during her years in journalism.

So it has been with great interest that we’ve been following, through reports written by our sister site StartupSmart, the controversy that has engulfed Melbourne start-up incubator York Butter Factory, which was forced to apologise after posting an extraordinarily sexist tweet earlier this week.

While many railed against a “boy’s club” culture in the tech start-up scene, others said the errant tweet shouldn’t be taken as a sign of a deeper problem.

So we actually did some work to investigate, and surveyed the seven big start-up incubators.

None of the key people at these organisations are female, and there are relatively few female entrepreneurs working in these groups.

It’s a fascinating finding, which has provoked varied reactions. Many readers were surprised and some were hostile.

Nick Holmes à Court, founder of the very clever social media monitoring start-up BuzzNumbers, took to the StartupSmart Facebook page to describe our story as “retarded”.

“For a website that is supposed to support start-ups and entrepreneurship, it’s pretty poor form to slander the people who are putting in time and money to make Australia a better place to start companies.”

Sorry Nick, we didn’t slander anyone.

Few publications track these incubators as closely as StartupSmart, which provides more detailed coverage of their activities than any other publication in Australia.

We believe these incubators have done a brilliant job in developing and professionalising the Australian start-up scene, and it is due to their hard work that Melbourne and Sydney were recently recognised as having some of the best start-up eco systems in the world.

But a quick look at a BRW Rich 200 or Young Rich list (both are scandalously low on women, and numbers have actually fallen in recent years) suggest that our entire business community does need to do more to encourage female entrepreneurs.

And as many of the leaders of these incubators acknowledged in StartupSmart‘s article, the tech scene does need to go an extra mile to lift its game to encourage and welcome more women into its midst.

That’s not slander and it’s not a criticism of the great work these organisations do. This whole episode should – and I am sure it will – serve as an opportunity for the scene to reflect on its culture and make the necessary changes.

We look forward to driving and tracking this change – and celebrating the emergence of a new group of great female tech entrepreneurs.



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