By Gemma Gelling - Chief Communications Officer
This year's International Women's Day theme, I am Generation Equality: Realising Women's Rights, has the marketing team at VERTO reflecting on Australia's entrepreneurial women, the modern trailblazers.
In Australia today, a record 12.1 per cent of women in the workforce are self-employed, with women at the helm of a third of our small businesses. Investing in our female entrepreneurs, particularly those in our rural and Indigenous communities, is a win for us all. It ensures we have access to innovation, talent and diversity, supports local communities, and provides opportunities to break down barriers.
Australian women are shaping the future
There are many women across the country who are building innovative businesses and social enterprises with the power to shape the future: Women like Tamika Young, cofounder of Deadly Inspiring Youth Doing Good, an organisation inspiring young Indigenous people to change the world, Jo Palmer, who founded Pointer Remote Roles to connect remote talent with jobs, and Mikaela Jade, who started Indigital, an augmented reality business that shares Indigenous stories in a new way, to name just a handful.
We don't have to look very far to see Australian women changing the world – many of them from rural, remote, and Indigenous communities, where additional barriers can reduce access to employment.
Entrepreneurship breaks down barriers
Employment barriers for women can come in many forms, from workplace flexibility issues to geographical and cultural ones.
Despite changing norms, according to the Diversity Council Australia, women are still taking on a disproportionate share of unpaid care and domestic work, which can impact job opportunities and contribute to the gender pay gap.
Many barriers are heightened in our rural and Indigenous communities, where a raft of economic, social and geographical challenges can also come into play. Self-employment provides opportunities for women to overcome these barriers, building their own initiatives that are often more outcome-focused than time-based, and that don't rely on living in a big city or being in the office from nine to five.
Indigenous women still only represent 0.25 per cent of businesses in Australia, however, this is on the rise. Between 2017-2019, Indigenous Business Australia gave financial and business support to nearly 700 Indigenous women, representing a growth of 93 per cent on the previous two years.
We can all benefit
Female-led businesses are having an impact across the world. Research shows that start-ups run by women generate higher returns and perform 63% better than those run by men. But it goes beyond the financial contribution - female-led entrepreneurship across the world has been linked to community transformation.
We only have to look to the success of female-led social initiatives here at home, like Buy from the Bush, to see the impact this can have. This initiative, which connects customers with small businesses in drought-affected communities, led to a 1900 per cent growth in orders for just one artist alone.
It's a great example of an entrepreneurial initiative in and of itself, but it's also a great example of what can happen when we invest in entrepreneurs.
Investment is key
To realise the full benefits of a strong female entrepreneurial community, investment is key. Investment should come from both the public and private sectors, and even individuals, who can get behind local and small businesses.
It’s not necessarily about grants, although these have a place, it’s about connecting customers with suppliers, building links between people who have a need and the businesses who can fulfil it.
This might be about digital connections, for example, by making sure rural and remote communities have the internet access they need to do business online. This allows them to connect with a global market, which in turn makes it possible to keep a local physical location open, creating jobs and contributing to community wellbeing.
It may also be about physical connection. Investment in local infrastructure, such as airports, decreases the physical barriers and makes it possible for more customers to visit regional towns and more regional businesses to do business in our cities.
It could also be about actively looking for ways to invest, as individuals and businesses. For example, VERTO is a proud member of SupplyNation, which connects procurement teams with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suppliers. This enables us to procure the goods and services we need to run our business, while at the same time supporting Indigenous enterprises and communities.
There is no denying that female-led businesses are on the rise. This International Women's Day, let's all pledge to support these businesses in 2020, to build a strong future for Australian women, our communities and our country.