While big business often struggles to get women on board in positions of power, the small business sector brims with the skills and energy of female entrepreneurs.
We hear a lot about women not being in positions with influence and power. We know we need diversity on boards and across leading management positions in industry if we are to access the skills, experience, knowledge, passion, energy and attitude of everyone in our business community.
Yet in the world of small business we do have women in important jobs and this should be recognised.
As the chief executive of the Council of Small Business, when I need to talk to someone about policy or process or some issue of the day, I have a group of advisers that I consult. Included in this group are people with the experience, knowledge, skills and attitude that I value.
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We don’t always agree but that is the important part of the consultation – discussion informs policy while constant agreement creates hubris and inhibits growth and innovation. My advisers come from most sectors, including retail, transport, finance, the service sector, and small business support agencies.
So who are the women I consult? My advisers may head up organisations with over 80,000 members; they influence health, property and real estate, regional issues, finance and skills, organisational capacity and attitude development for workforces of the largest businesses and government agencies.
I consult these people not just on women’s issues, although I might do from time to time. I consult them on issues to do with policy, process, politics and innovation.
They may not be chief executives of large private sector corporations but they are involved in powerhouse organisations that add to the wealth and health of Australia; more power to them and women like them and I hope they get the recognition they have earned.
1. Amanda Lynch
Amanda Lynch is the chief executive of the Real Estate Institute of Australia, an organisation with over 80,000 members through its state branches and of great importance and influence in our community.
Amanda is also a past chairman of COSBOA and during that time we worked together to get small business issues considered at the highest level and our membership reached record levels.
Amanda was involved in consultations and planning at the highest level from COAG, economic transformation activities, tax and training. Amanda also knows how to deal with the minority of men who might try and use their gender to bully her into agreeing with some point or another. COSBOA is better for her leadership.
2. Lauretta Stace
Lauretta Stace is the chief executive of Fitness Australia, which has over 30,000 members consisting of businesses as well as individuals including personal trainers, gym managers and corporate trainers.
Lauretta not only manages the recognition of skills but also competes in triathlons and lives the fitness and health dream. The role played by the members of Fitness Australia in the physical health of Australians is enormous.
This is not lost on Lauretta, who represents not just her members but also the millions of people who use the fitness industry for their own health purposes. This is an absolutely important position.
3. Sandy Chong
Sandy Chong is the chief executive of the Australian Hairdressing Council. Roseanne Anderson is also from the hairdressing sector, and is a past winner of the Prime Minister’s Small Business Award and heads up Hair and Beauty Tasmania.
The hairdressing industry and its people are artistic, innovative and business like – otherwise they wouldn’t be in business. Hairdressing salons across the country are an integral part of our communities and the social lives of many people.
Sandy and Roseanne have influence on suppliers to the hairdressing industry and their focus on skills development, business acumen for members and quality products helps keep our culture on top of changes in fashions and in what the community wants.
4. Lyn Goodear
Lyn Goodear heads up the Australian Human Resources Institute. With over 20,000 HR professionals as members, many self-employed consultants and contractors, Lyn’s organisation has an impact on the way big and small businesses operate.
It is the members of her organisation who influence the future of the biggest companies, it is her members who supply advice and support to medium and small business; it is her members who make up the management of public sector organisations. Workforce management is at the heart of big business success and Lyn’s organisation is at the coalface of that industry.
5. Yasmin King
Yasmin King is the immediate past small business commissioner for NSW and now the head of Service Skills Australia. Yasmin has been a senior person of influence for some time, helping to create a very powerful role for the small business commissioners of NSW, a role that gives hope and advice to small business people in that state.
Yasmin now picks up the cudgel for training development activities, an area where small business people have a great interest.
6. Kathryn Bordonaro
Kathryn Bordonaro is a person I first met at a Senate Enquiry some years ago. Kathryn runs a commercial finance broking company, East State Credit Services, in East Gippsland and along with a small group of people from the same industry association (CAFBA) has been the driving force behind COSBOA’s small business finance policy issues and actions. We have issues on the agenda of banks and policy-makers due to Kathryn and her association.
7. Teresa Mitchell
Teresa Mitchell lives and works in the same part of Gippsland as Kathryn Bordonaro – must be something in the water down there because Teresa also gets small business and small business issues in a way most people don’t.
Teresa is involved in the shared workspace movement – including The Hub in Melbourne. She has been a great supporter of COSBOA and now is our newest director and has all the influence that comes with that position.
Large banks, mines, retailers, government agencies, transport companies and the like are important to the country. But without small business and the organisations that support and represent them, those big businesses would be worse off, as would the economy.
These organisations need strong leaders and in small business we have some strong successful women adding to the depth of our success. Like all of us in the world of small business, what we want is to be consulted and listened to about the issues and people we represent.
If you want a worthwhile opinion or the facts, find these women – and other women and men like them – in associations that support small business.
Peter Strong is the chief executive of the Council of Small Business of Australia.