StartupSmart’s sister site SmartCompany has unveiled its second annual list of Australia’s Top Female Entrepreneurs, with many of the women making their wealth in consumer-oriented sectors including retail, cosmetics, fashion and franchising.
The 40 female entrepreneurs featured on the list, which is ranked according to revenue in 2009 to 2010, control companies with annual revenue of $4.1 billion, up from $3.1 billion last year.
Topping the list is Tasmanian retail veteran Jan Cameron with revenue of more than $1 billion. Cameron’s empire, Retail Adventures, was founded in 2006 and now includes a range of discount chains including Chickenfeed, Sam’s Warehouse, Crazy Clark’s and Go-Lo.
Coming in second is Leslie Gillespie, co-founder of iconic bakery franchise Baker’s Delight, followed by Naomi Milgrom who heads up women’s fashion retailer Sussan.
Gillespie and her husband launched Baker’s Delight in 1980 with a single bakery, and now have more than 700 bakeries across three countries thanks to a successful franchise model.
In recent years, the company has sought to attract young franchisees through its Manage to Own Program. In 2009-10, Bakers Delight recorded revenue of $566 million.
Sussan recorded revenue of more than $498 million in 2009-10, thanks to the direction of Milgrom, who took control of the family business in 2003 after buying out her parents and siblings.
In a speech last year, Milgrom said, “99% of my staff are women and mostly working mothers. I believe that the best way to manage this workforce is through consultation and having flexible working hours.”
Rounding out the top five are Maxine Horne, joint chief executive of phone retailer Vita Group, and Hancock Prospecting chief Gina Rinehart.
Other high profile females featured include Therese Rein, Boost Juice founder Janine Allis, The Heat Group co-founder and StartupSmart mentor Gillian Franklin, and Sass & Bide founders Sarah-Jane Clarke and Heidi Middleton.
Many of the women featured are also renowned for bringing their businesses back from the brink, or maintaining sales amidst slow consumer spending.
For example, Sue Ismiel, of Sue Ismiel & Daughters, was forced to return to the helm of her cosmetics company in 2008 after stepping away from her business and watching it get into serious trouble.
Last year, the turnaround was complete as Sue and her daughters turned their focus to growth. As well as developing its range of products, Nads is moving into franchising as part of its expansion plans.
While the success stories are encouraging, much has been made recently of the absence of females in senior management roles, in addition to gender wage gaps, prompting various female leaders to renew the call for change.
Governor General Quentin Bryce has advocated the introduction of quotas to ensure more women are appointed as directors on the boards of Australian companies.
Minister for the Status of Women Kate Ellis has confirmed the Government will hold an audit in 18 months to gauge whether the number of women on boards has increased, and will take action if needed.
Meanwhile, in an attempt to readdress gender pay inequalities, a group of high profile women has urged the Government to increase compulsory superannuation payments to 12%, arguing Australian women need it the most.
In an open letter, prominent women from business, academia, the arts and public life used International Women’s Day as a platform to push for the higher funding.
The letter says the increase in payments from 9% to 12% is critical for all Australians, but particularly important for women who battle to build up savings amidst broken work patterns, lower wages and longer life expectancies.
Statistics show that for every dollar earned by a male, females earn 82 cents. Males retire with an average of $136,000, while females have just $63,000.