Women are leading the growth charge in emerging export markets.
There is a growing number of women among Australia’s best exporters, but often they get about as much recognition as Australian women sports stars — not enough.
Many women run small businesses and that’s where most of the export action is. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, currently women run one third of Australia’s small businesses, and most of the growth in the exporter community will come from small businesses in emerging industries.
So who are our leading women exporters in the trade game? Who are the Hockeyroos, Opals and Libby Lentons of the Australian exporter community?
There are quite a few West Australians in their ranks. For instance, Marie Stoner, a leading WA research scientist who now runs Clinical Cell Culture (3C), a major bio-medical exporter.
Stoner, whose background is in haematology, developed the company’s product line with Fiona Wood, a plastic surgeon and burn specialist. The company’s main product, Cell Spray, was crucial to helping treat the burns of the Bali victims. The company is progressively building its international profile and now exports to hospitals in Britain and New Zealand.
Another West Australian, Mary Nenke, runs Cambinata Yabbies based in Kukerin, near Wagin. Mary switched to yabbies in the face of drought conditions.
Cambinata, which first exported in response to overseas interest in the company’s website, exports more than 60% of its produce overseas. Its supply base consists on 500 farms in WA, 90% of which are run by women.
On the east coast, Amanda Hicks is a director of Autobake, which designs and manufactures industrial baking systems. Autobake’s biggest market is the US and the company has had to take on events in the past like September 11 and as well as fluctuations in the exchange rate, but as Hicks has emphasised: “In exporting, you don’t always get a quick result. It’s a long-term investment.”
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And women lead the way in Queensland. According to an Austrade/DHL survey, Queensland has a higher proportion of women CEOs in the exporter community than any other state.
WA comes second. It’s not just the commodities boom driving those states — you could say that women entrepreneurs are the “hidden resources” of the resources boom. And it is clearly to those companies’ benefit, as exporters that have a higher proportion of women in their executive ranks are, on average, more successful in terms of growth than those that adopt a “blokes only” policy.
In anticipation of more talent to come, Austrade has set up a Women in Export program. There are more than 19,000 women export executives and CEOs in Australia, but there is plenty more talent out there.
Accordingly, the Women in Export program is dedicated to removing barriers to export for women entrepreneurs and to raise the “intention to export” among women-lead companies.
It is just like an Australian Institute of Sport program for exporters. The Women in Export program encourages networking and mentoring among women exporters and business groups to raise awareness of Austrade programs such as Export Market Development Grants Scheme.
Just as we have cheered our leading women sports stars on the field and in the pool, let’s do the same thing for our women exporters.
Tim Harcourt is the chief economist of the Australian Trade Commission (Austrade). He was previously an economist/industrial advocate with the Australian Industrial Relations Commission, the Reserve Bank of Australia and the ACTU, and is also author of Beyond Our Shores www.austrade.gov.au/economistscorner