Economy

More Australian women now run their own businesses

Angela Priestley /

If you’ve suspected there’s a growing cohort of women owning their own businesses in Australia, the latest 2016 Census data proves your instincts are right.

But the uptick recorded is not huge, with women now accounting for 33% of owner-managers in Australia, compared to 31% in 2006.

I’m certainly not surprised by the increase, I thought it’d be larger. Especially given the apparent growing level of interest in female-led entrepreneurial and small business events and courses in Australia, the increased prominence of entrepreneurial women in the media, as well as research on Women’s Agenda regarding ambitions for starting businesses.

Still, the growth in female owner-operators is happening at a faster rate than men, with the number of female owner managers up 7.6% over the last decade (now at 504,838), compared to a rise of just 0.3% for men.

Across the country, 14% of employed people identified as owner-managers of businesses, slightly down from 16% in 2006. The majority (57%) do not employ other people, and just 4.2% of owner-managers employ 20 people or more.

Plenty of female business owners are dealing with ‘the juggle’, with 33% in couple families with children under 15 years of age, and another 3.9% juggling both work and family roles in sole parent households.

Meanwhile, (and again I was surprised) the proportion of people aged 18 to 24 operating as owner-managers has declined slightly, down from 2.5% in 2006 to 2.3% in 2016.

But the number of owner-managers aged over 65 is at 9.8%, accounting for 5.9% of all owner-managers.

So what age is the most common for business owner-managers in Australia? For women, the median age is 47, slightly younger than the median age of 48 for men.

And what are business owner-managers earning? The ABS reported their total weekly personal income is estimated to be $1,028, compared with $1,023 for all employees. But business owners are working more hours to get there, recording a median of 40-hour weeks, compared with 38 hours for employees.

Getting employees into your business doesn’t necessarily minimise the hours you’re working, or lead to better work-life balance. The ABS reported a median of 35 hours worked per week for those with no employees, compared to 40 hours for those with 1 to 19 employees, and a massive 48 hours for those with 20 employees or more. Fourteen percent of owner-managers are working 50 to 59 hours a week, compared with just 7.5% for employees.

The difference for owner-managers could be that they have more say over when and where they work, compared to employees.

This article was first published by Women’s Agenda.

NOW READ: Female entrepreneurs still met with gendered assumptions, says NAB small business boss

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Angela Priestley

Angela Priestley is the publisher and founding editor of Women's Agenda. She's an author, journalist and passionate advocate for workplace gender equality and diversity. Her first book is Women Who Seize the Moment.

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