People & Human Resources

The more women in business the better – for all of us

Fi Bendall /

The percentage of businesses owned by women is growing. An Australian Bureau of Statistics report Perspectives on Regional Australia: Business Owners in Regions, 2011, states that businesses are two-thirds more likely to owned by men then women, with 34% of businesses owned by women nationwide. About 31% of SMEs in Australia are owned by women.

This is encouraging considering that women comprise about 46% of all employees nationwide, as noted in a recent 2015 Australian government publication. A further breakdown of that figure reveals that 24.8% are working full-time and 21.2% are part-time workers.

Delving even further into the data of part-time female employees, we see that the workforce participation rate for women is 59%, versus 71% for men. Compare these figures to the educational attainment levels: 42% of all women aged 25-29 have achieved a bachelor degree or above, compared to 30% of men in that age group. This shows clearly that there is a massive underutilized pool of talent in Australia.

This is something that is changing, with women increasing their participation rate in the workforce, both as employees and as business owners.

Research by the Australian Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry released in 2012 shows the number of women who started their own businesses doubled between 2007 to 2013; with about 1 million women trading in Australia via online businesses in 2013.

More recent figures on this are not yet available, but given the historic figures, it is likely that we see that percentage increasing at an increasing rate.

To drill down in that data, we find a report from the Minister of Small Business that states “Labour force data shows women account for around a third of our nation’s business operators. This data from January this year shows there were 406,400 women running a business.” (To account for the discrepancy between 1 million trading online and 406,000 operating a business, we can assume that not all of those online traders qualify as business owners.)

Women open businesses for a number of reasons, more or less the same as men do. Primarily, they see a need that can filled or something that can be done better. There is perhaps a different impetus behind women opening a business: Primarily, it offers more flexibility than being a mere employee.

This trend can be seen in the rise of mumpreneurs in Australia. The rise of the mumpreneur can be attributed to much more than just the flexible work hours that lend themselves to raising children and more family time.

There is also the factor of women achieving equal wages and eliminating gender inequality in their own business. And a big driver in women starting business — expounding upon the flexibility and gender bias — is the tech factor.

You can work from anywhere, on the move, and you are a digital presence, not a woman per se.

And with the increase in female-owned business, we are seeing some interesting trends starting to form in the marketplace.

Women are more empathetic than male counterparts in business, and their strategic decisions tend to have a decidedly more humanistic side to them.

This translates into customer-first business decisions that are highly valued by the market. It also translates into investments, with women being one-third more likely to see investment decisions as an extension of their values.

While no business can make unsound investments just because it’s the right thing to do, we will likely see more business investments made based more on value systems than purely the potential for profit — with a growing portion of this investment being directed back into the development of female leaders and their businesses.

There also is mounting evidence that companies with women on the board or those owned by women tend to outperform those lacking female leadership.

The validity of this observation and how this relates to the shifting belief systems of established companies as more women come on board and go into business for themselves is yet to be determined, but one might conclude that a company more attuned to social benefits and doing at least a modicum of good might be more attractive to investors of the future, rather than just a company making money.

We haven’t heard much on the topic from the new Minister for Small Business Kelly O’Dwyer MP. Most of her public comments thus far have been focused on the Asian Markets and free-trade agreements. But as she settles into a more gender-equal cabinet, we hope to see more work done to encourage women to start their own businesses and step into more senior roles in business in Australia.

Yet, while there is a long way to go to realise complete gender equality, the fact remains that women are making leaps and bounds, and are here to stay.

Beyond the massive advantages to the world’s society and economies (“Over the next decade, the entrance into the economic mainstream of a billion women worldwide will have a greater impact than the economic growth among the billion-plus populations of China and India”, according to research quoted in an article from Bloomberg Business), there is emerging evidence that women are just plain good for business.

The more women owning business and working in established businesses means more women with more money, more women making investments that are good for society, more women focused on what the customer wants first and foremost, and more women encouraging and mentoring more women into business. More women in business means just that: More women in business.

Next we want more women in politics. A gender-equal world with no war and diminished poverty anyone?

Fi Bendall is the managing director of Bendalls Group, a team of highly trained digital specialists, i-media subject matter experts and developers.

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Fi Bendall

Fi Bendall is chief executive of The Bendalls Group and a Westpac/AFR 2015 100 Women of Influence, who was described by CEO Magazine as 'The CEO's Secret Weapon'. An expert and pioneer in digital strategy, she has over 23 years’ experience in the digital and tech sectors.

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