Female “corporate refugees” suffering from start-up wage drought: Report

The Australian Women Chamber of Commerce & Industry is calling for a mandate to ensure female business owners have access to government contracts, claiming more than half are unable to pay themselves a wage after they start-up.


AWCCI says it has submitted an Issues Paper to the federal and state governments recommending a mandate to ensure female businesses owners have access to government grants.


The move comes after AWCCI research revealed 51% of female business owners are unable to pay themselves a wage after leaving a corporate position to pursue their own interests.


This figure comes from a Women Business Owners and Female Entrepreneurs poll, conducted by AWCCI between September and December last year.


The survey – which was open to women who own and operate their own business in Australia –consisted of more than 100 questions and attracted 2,952 respondents.


While more than half of the women surveyed were unable to pay themselves a wage after walking away from the corporate sector, only 20% have tendered for a government contract.


According to AWCCI chief executive Yolanda Vega, Australian governments need to use their “purchasing power” to support female business owners.


Vega says there are almost one million women trading in Australia, many of whom are “corporate refugees”.


“These women… are economically disadvantaged and are unable to pay themselves a wage,” Vega says.


“They don’t have access to markets, they can’t access capital and they don’t have access to government contracts.”


“In Australia, there is no data available to indicate what percentage of federal, state or local government contracts have been procured by women-owned businesses.”


Vega referred to an announcement made at the 2012 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation’s Women and the Economy Forum, held last month.


At the forum, US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton announced two new initiatives aimed at expanding women’s access to capital and markets.


The first initiative will see APEC help governments use their purchasing power to support female entrepreneurs and grow their respective economies.


The second will see APEC join with expert partners to train central and commercial banks throughout the Asia-Pacific in inclusive lending practices so that women can access finance.


“If Australian governments at all levels implement these two initiatives, women’s participation in Australia’s commercial sector would be radically revolutionised,” Vega says.


The AWCCI Issues Paper recommends governments at all levels set an initial target of 5% in the award of contracts to women-owned SMEs, and for these to be reviewed annually.


It also recommends governments and their agencies start collecting sex-desegregated data to learn which businesses are procuring contracts awarded to SMEs.


According to Vega, establishing and reaching targets with a mandate across all agencies is an “appropriate step” towards increasing women’s participation in the procurement process.


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