Women’s Entrepreneurship Day: It’s time to even the playing field for women founders

cultural diversity boards Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

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Participation of women in business is vital for our economic recovery post-COVID, yet currently in Australia only 22% of startup founders are female, and women own only 31% of businesses

Traditional nine-to-five roles are not suited to many women and the latest ABS statistics confirm that, with women comprising just 26.1% of full-time workers. Women are overrepresented in the casual workforce, and sectors like hospitality, tourism, and retail have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Women have also suffered a more significant burden of childcare during lockdowns. And the increase in domestic violence during the pandemic has highlighted the importance of financial freedom for women at a time when they have suffered the most significant economic impact. 

Clearly, there is so much underutilised economic potential of the female workforce, and I would argue that entrepreneurship is a pathway that could lead to economic independence and success for many Australian women. At the same time, more women founders could lead to overall prosperity for the country. 

I believe diversity is the key to innovation. The Boston Scientific Group found women business owners received on average US$1 million ($1.37 million) less in startup funding, yet generated more than twice as much per dollar invested than those companies founded by men. So, it’s not only a matter of gender equity; it makes good business sense.

There are many benefits for women in running their own businesses. It provides flexibility in work hours and location. It allows women to turn their passion into a business, offering an opportunity to do what they love. Women understand women problems and are creative in finding solutions, employing women and people of diverse backgrounds, showing resilience and leadership in a crisis, and are purpose-driven to make a difference to their communities. 

Women seek balance, care about solutions and when they are passionate about something, they never give up. Women entrepreneurs create businesses that benefit themselves, their families, their employees, communities, customers, and the world. Think of a woman on a mission — she is unstoppable! Through hours of unequal share of childcare, eldercare, and domestic duties, they are overqualified machines when it comes to sweat equity — the backbone of startups.

Research by the Harvard Business Review found women scored higher than men in the following leadership skills: initiative, resilience, self-development, integrity, honesty, motivating others, building relationships, collaboration, teamwork, problem-solving, and innovation.  

However, there are barriers for women when it comes to founding their own business — these include fear of failure and lack of self-belief, unconscious bias, career gender stereotypes, access to funding and networking. In the US, only 2% of venture capital funding goes to female founder companies highlighting the need for improved access to financing for women.

But steps can be taken to address the barriers to women’s entrepreneurship. These include:

  • More flexible childcare options and broader support options for women founders so they can balance work and family;
  • Improved educational opportunities for young women and training for women returning to the workforce after raising a family — particularly in the areas of finance and technical skills; 
  • Increased developmental networking and mentoring  targeted at women business owners and founders; 
  • Improved and fairer access to business and start-up finance from government and non-government lenders; and 
  • Raising the profile of female entrepreneurs is crucial to showing other women what is possible. 

My wish is for a world in which we no longer need to set aside one day a year as Women’s Entrepreneurship Day — that will mean the playing field is more even, which is important for equality and our economic property. 

And it’s vital for our young women — they need successful role models who look like them, to build their self-belief and so they can dream big.

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