As the Australian Ambassador for Women’s Entrepreneurship Day (WEDO), celebrated each November at the United Nations and around the world, what struck me about the tone of this year’s event was the unwavering determination and hope in the face of unimpressive figures.
After hearing the statistics from the World Bank Gender Innovation Lab report that female-owned businesses were 5.9 per cent more likely to close during the pandemic than male-owned businesses, meaning that COVID has impacted women and their businesses disproportionately more than men, one might expect a sense of exasperation from attendees.
A sense of exasperation, from hearing that women still face inequality in 2021, more so at times of global adversity and crisis. This, despite the impressive figures that tell us women do so much to boost the local and global economy. In fact, according to 2020 research by the Commonwealth Government Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources and The University of Melbourne, boosting women entrepreneurs could contribute between $71–$135 billion to the Australian economy and up to $7 trillion globally.
The state of female entrepreneurship in Australia compared to the rest of the world is above average; we rank 8th globally for the proportion of female entrepreneurs. Sadly, that doesn’t equate to gender equality. Statistics include that within most public hospitals and university departments in Australia, only 20 per cent of department heads are women and that in Australia, women currently hold less than a third of board positions across the ASX 200 companies.
Because women entrepreneurs are 63 per cent less likely to receive funding than men and when they do it is, on average, 23 per cent less than their male counterparts, what better way to move forward than to host a virtual pitch night, where women-led businesses pitched their ideas to an audience of investors. Well done to winners Getrude Matshe of HerStory Circle, Fiona Holmstrom of STEM Punks, and Kathy Hubble of Amelio Health.
For female entrepreneurs in Australia, here are my five top tips to contribute to achieving global gender equality:
- Find mentors: Attend women’s networking events to come across new opportunities. According to the ABS, 97 per cent of women-owned and led businesses in Australia are small businesses, and small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy. Look to networking events, meetups or even just start a conversation with another business owner: you never know when a single conversation can catapult your vision forward in remarkable ways.
- Apply for that grant: Search for and apply for sponsorships and micro grants for women-led entrepreneurs, like on the WEDO website or government websites or through your network. For instance, it was at a local women’s business networking event where I learned about a government grant that my business Synthesis Organics was awarded, which we are using to develop a state-of-the-art organic manufacturing HQ and entrepreneurial hub for other health, beauty and wellness brands needing support with product manufacturing.
- Foster a supportive environment: If you are in a position to, empower other females in your industry. It could be holding a pitch night, offering work opportunities, sharing solicited advice or simply offering a listening ear.
- Educate others: Talk about the statistics behind gender inequality to others. The more people understand the impact of empowering women in business, the more they will get involved and encourage others to do so.From there, we truly can come together as men and women to heal a world in crisis.
- Stay determined: In the face of adversity, just as my fellow speakers and WEDO volunteers did, stay determined and focussed on succeeding. Mentoring, improving education and fostering inspiration is the key to a wealthier, healthier global economy.