Female entrepreneurs

This is what progress looks like

Nicola Hazell /

SheStarts

SheStarts director Nicola Hazell. Source: Supplied.

Two years ago, I wrote an article while sitting in a hotel lobby in Canberra. It was March 8, 2016 — International Women’s Day.

As the global lens was again being focused for a day on progress toward gender equality, I found myself lamenting the fact that “the boss” was still a position presumed to be filled by men, not women. I was frustrated that women earned on average more than 17% less than their male counterparts; that only 19% of all startup founders in Australia were women; and that there was so little visibility of female leaders in STEM and business for the next generation to look up to.

Reading back on the article now, amid the flood of coverage for International Women’s Day 2018, I am acutely aware of how much has changed, but also how much has stayed the same.

It’s a reminder that changing the ratio is about staying the course and continuing to push for progress, year after year after year.

So let’s start with the good news …

Everyday, I look around me and see an increasing number of women in leadership positions.

Yesterday, I sat on a panel at Twitter HQ alongside two brilliant tech startup chief executives and the managing director of Twitter Australia — all women, all leaders changing the world. The room was filled with female leaders from across corporate Australia, as well as dozens of female startup founders — a growing group that has risen to 25% of all founders in Australia over the past two years.

This is what progress looks like.

Earlier this week, I heard from another inspiring female leader, Stephanie Buscemi, the executive vice president of product and solutions marketing at Salesforce, who spoke about how Salesforce has invested $US6 million to deliver and yes, achieve, equal pay across their workforce. A huge step toward removing the gender pay gap in one of the biggest tech companies in the world.

Progress, as a result of serious action.

And here on the pages of SmartCompany and StartupSmart today, I see the faces of hundreds of women in business, women in leadership, women supporting women right across our economy, and I know that there is a growing community of female leaders for the next generation to look up to.

Things are changing. But we’re not there yet.

To achieve the results we strive for — to have women equally represented as leaders and indeed participants in our economy and our society — we must continue everyday to press for progress.

The global spotlight that has been cast on the treatment of women in tech, in media and entertainment, in politics and the wider economy, provides us with an opportunity to not just have a conversation about change, but to take action to achieve it.

Two years ago, sitting in that hotel lobby in Canberra, I signed a letter of employment to join the team at BlueChilli to do just that — to take action, and drive change through the launch of the SheStarts accelerator for female-led startups.

I know that in the two years since, our collective action, backed by our partners at ANZ, MYOB, Microsoft, LinkedIn and Google, has driven real progress.

More than half a million viewers tuned in to series one of the SheStarts documentary series — presenting a fresh perspective on startup life and leadership through the stories of ambitious women launching tech companies in the program.

We’re now in our second year of the SheStarts accelerator, with our new cohort of incredible founders who are not only building amazing companies, but stepping into their own positions as leaders and role models for others.

These women saw themselves in the journeys of cohort one, inspiring them to take their own steps to get started. In doing so, they continue to light the path for others to follow.

The key here is that in every woman is a story that may inspire and motivate another. But if we can’t see these women, if we don’t know what they are achieving, it makes it all the more difficult for the next wave to find its way to shore.

Visibility is a key to change. Because, “if I can see it, I can be it”.

We must shine a light on progress — not just today, but every single day — so we can see the results that progress can have on our world, not just for women, but for everyone.

NOW READ: Here are the Australian women inspiring business and startups

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Nicola Hazell

Nicola Hazell is the director of SheStarts and and head of diversity and impact at BlueChilli.

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