We need women-led startups to succeed as fast as men

Melissa Browne

It’s great that women are increasingly leading startups but it’s coming at a cost, with women paying themselves less in the process. Melissa Browne has three suggestions. 

In 2015, Startup Muster conducted a survey and discovered the percentage of startups founded by females had risen from one in six in 2011 to one in four in 2014.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics reported in that same year, 34% of businesses operators were women. This represents an increase in business ownership by females of more than 46% in the last 20 years.

So it’s fairly clear that women are starting businesses faster than ever.

What concerns me, however, is that generally we’re not doing it as well as our male counterparts. A 2015 ABS study reported that in 2012, women were earning on average $423 per week compared with $890 for men for an unincorporated business and $998 as compared to $1,451 per week for an incorporated business. Female business owners were also likely to have less money per week from all sources then their male counterparts and other employed women.

It’s also clear from research and reports that women are neglecting to pay superannuation and other benefits for themselves. Which means sure, women might be starting businesses at a faster rate, but at what cost?

Now I’m all for the rise of the female entrepreneur. After all, I am one. But I’m all for the rise of the fempreneur who refuses to use the word ‘just’ when describing their business and who is determined to make their business, whether that’s a two day a week enterprise or a global business, the most successful one it can be.

I believe female entrepreneurs need to accept an adapted version of Jim Collins’ hedgehog theory when it comes to not simply starting a business, but starting the best version of a business they can possible have.

This involves three equally important parts:

1. Developing a passion for business

Collins talks about developing passion for what you’re doing but generally women start a business based on passion, so they already have that in spades. Instead, they need to develop a passion for business. Often this means putting on the big girl pants and choosing to understand the numbers side of their business.

2. Being best in the world at what you do

Now I know many male business owners who truly believe they’re best in the world at what they do. That’s because they have something many female business owners lack — confidence. But the point isn’t being best in the world but rather being the best version of you doing that thing in your business that you do. So not being a carbon copy of something or someone you think you should be but bringing the best version of you to the business. It’s about authenticity, showing up for your tribe, and developing a product or service that others can’t replicate because it has your secret sauce.

3. Figuring out what drives your economic engine

Yes, it sounds blokey, but it’s hard to find a better description. That’s because there are some women (and men) that are calling their hobby a business and they’d be much better off going and getting a job because what they’re doing, and what they’re able or willing to price it for, just isn’t viable. It’s about understanding your numbers, understanding where your profit pools are and making smart decisions about what you’re going to spend your time and business doing.

There are more and more people and organisations championing the rise of the fempreneur and I think that’s a great thing. However, what I advocate is not just more females starting businesses but rather more women committed to understanding how to run successful businesses, who are paying themselves superannuation, building wealth and truly creating a difference.

This article was first published by Women’s Agenda.

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