Championing Change – The Role of Women Entrepreneurs in the Modern Economy

Australia is under-utilising 50% of its economic potential.

This is a direct quote from the Australian government’s 10-year-plan to unleash the full capacity and contribution of women to the Australian economy. The report notes that boosting women’s workforce participation and productivity could add $128 billion to GDP. But how much more could be added by growing our community of women entrepreneurs?

Despite women constituting 50% of the world’s population, women entrepreneurs account for only 37% of global GDP, according to the Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs. Australia, where women own 31.6% of businesses, comes fourth in global rankings (behind the US, New Zealand and Canada) based on various components, including women’s entrepreneurial activity rate and entrepreneurial supporting conditions.

As we approach International Women’s Day (IWD) on 8th March, it’s time to reflect on its theme of Inspire Inclusion, the untapped potential of many Australian women, and how much more diversity and economic improvement could be contributed by empowering underutilised women entrepreneurs.

The unlevel playing field for women entrepreneurs

Considering the challenges faced by women entrepreneurs, and by female leadership in the business world generally, it’s not surprising that parity with their male counterparts is still far from being a reality.

Chief among the hurdles that women in business have to overcome are:

  • Gender disparities in leadership and remuneration

The gender imbalance is evident in the underrepresentation of women in executive or board positions in major Australian companies. And the gender pay gap, whilst moving in the right direction, means that, on average, full-time working women still earn $253.50 less than men each week, affecting not only their income but also their motivation.

  • Barriers to entry and advancement

Women often face higher barriers to entry in business due to persistent stereotypes and biases. These roadblocks can manifest in the form of stringent scrutiny of women’s credentials, achievements and leadership styles, often holding them to higher standards than their male colleagues.

  • Limited access to funding

Access to capital is a critical factor for starting and growing a business, yet women entrepreneurs have a greater difficulty than men in securing funding. Financial data company PitchBook reports that venture capitalists and investors are more likely to fund businesses led by men.

  • Lack of mentorship and networking opportunities

Mentorship and networking are crucial for entrepreneurial success, providing insights, guidance, resources and support. However, as reported by the American Association of University Women, men still surpass women in accessing networks to learn about opportunities, mentors and sponsors.

  • Balancing work and family responsibilities

Women often bear the brunt of family and caregiving responsibilities. According to the Pew Research Center, it is challenging to balance these with the demands of running a business or pursuing leadership roles. In one survey quoted, 42% of mothers reported that they had reduced their work hours in order to care for a child or other family member at some point in their career, compared with only 28% of fathers.

Women entrepreneurs’ strategy checklist

There’s no doubt that women entrepreneurs currently face more obstacles to advancement than their male peers. However, the gender pay gap is continuing to close, the big end of town is appointing more female CEOs, and more Australian women own businesses than ever before.

Women in business leadership can continue the drive towards parity and inclusion, whilst thriving and becoming future-fit themselves, by focusing on three core pillars: business growth, personal soft skills development, and leveraging their business and professional networks.

Here are some strategies and tips for guidance through the steps involved:

1.  Growth strategies

  • Review your business model to ensure it can handle growth.
  • Create a detailed plan that includes target markets, potential barriers, financing needs and key milestones.
  • Innovate continuously, stay ahead of market trends, and diversify if necessary.
  • Streamline processes and use technology to improve productivity and reduce costs.
  • Maintain high customer satisfaction through exceptional service and engagement strategies.

2.  Soft skills development

  • Build self-awareness and confidence by assessing your strengths, weaknesses and emotional triggers, seeking constructive feedback into your behaviour and leadership style, and via confidence-building activities such as public speaking.
  • Participate in women’s leadership programs.
  • Practise inclusive leadership by empowering team members from diverse backgrounds.

3.  Networks and mentorship

  • Attend industry events, and participate in relevant conferences and workshops.
  • Join professional associations, including female leadership associations.
  • Use LinkedIn and other professional social networks to connect with peers, mentors, and potential business partners.
  • Encourage satisfied customers to refer others to your business.
  • Find a mentor who is an experienced entrepreneur or leader, for guidance, advice and support.

Bentleys’ commitment to women entrepreneurs and leaders

Bentleys is proud of its inclusive teams and its support of women in senior leadership roles – as has been the experience of Tina Kiernan, a Bentleys Partner in Queensland.

Our core company values of authenticity, insightfulness, dynamism and connectedness play a fundamental role in our encouragement and reinforcement of women in leadership roles. This was underlined by Bentley’s choice of Layne Beachley – seven times world surfing champion, and entrepreneur, motivational speaker, trainer, facilitator and philanthropist – as the keynote speaker at Bentleys’ recent conference in Melbourne. She spoke on Achieving Sustained Success, including overcoming challenges, boosting energy, and action as the antidote to fear.

(In conjunction with Chief Executive Women (CEW), Layne’s Awake Academy will host an Own Your Truth corporate team transformation event in Brisbane on March 18th.)


The only way is forward

Women entrepreneurs have no shortage of challenges – in the shape of gender bias, limited funding, advancement and networking opportunities, plus caregiving responsibilities – but plenty of scope to level up their economic contribution via business growth, soft skills development and mentorship. At Bentleys, we are proud to support women.  The representatives of our women’s team listed on this page are professionals who model the qualities that drive change – both at Bentleys and in the broader business community. Reach out to them if you would like some insights on their leadership journey.

Bentleys’ Business Advisors can help you to grow your business and support you to develop and strengthen inclusive leadership teams. Contact us today for a no-obligation discussion. We can help you get where you want to be.

 

Disclaimer: This information is general in nature and should not be relied on as advice. It does not take into account the objectives, financial situation or needs of any particular person. You need to consider your financial situation and needs and seek professional advice before making any decisions based on this information.

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