This International Women’s Day, I’m celebrating entrepreneurship. You might ask why – after all, male startup founders far outnumber female. But look a little deeper, and you’ll see some interesting data: the gender split amongst Australian millennial entrepreneurs and business owners is even (according to a 2017 NAB white paper). And there are many good reasons why more and more women are attracted to entrepreneurship as an alternative to the traditional corporate career path.
Let’s start with the fact that entrepreneurship gives you control of your own destiny – whether you fail or succeed, it’s on your own terms, not because of gender biases which may exist in some corporate cultures. If you are successful, it’s a ticket to financial freedom and security. This is important, particularly as a disproportionate percentage of women don’t have adequate savings for retirement. Interestingly, female entrepreneurs in a Centre for Entrepreneurs/Barclays study take home twice as much pay as men surveyed. This compares very favourably to the undisputed gender pay gap amongst leaders in the corporate world.
Entrepreneurs have the freedom to choose their own hours and grow their business at their own pace. This flexibility is priceless for many women, particularly those who are mothers to young children. While things are changing, with big companies increasingly making flexibility a core part of their Employer Value Proposition, we are still in an era where it’s easier to get flexibility as an entrepreneur than as an employee.
Many women don’t want to choose between work and family, they want to experience the fulfilment of both. It’s a juggling act, but women seem to be innately good at multi-tasking and juggling in fluid environments. And it just so happens that this talent is highly beneficial in a startup, where there are no set job descriptions, everyone has to pitch in and wear a variety of hats.
On the whole, I find women care deeply about values. As an entrepreneur, you get to create a value system that drives the culture of your business. You also have the freedom to pick clients and partners who share your values.
One of the best parts about entrepreneurship is that there are no barriers to entry – anyone can come up with an idea and give it a crack. Where women entrepreneurs face an ongoing battle is in the fundraising department – there is an entrenched bias towards backing male founders within the investor community. At the same time, Government grants are freely available to all, supporting entrepreneurs regardless of gender in growing their business globally and innovating through targeted research and development. There are grants which are exclusive to women as well. Not to mention a plethora of business award programs exclusive to women – Telstra Business Women’s Awards, Women in Digital and AFR Women of Influence, just to name a few.
Role models are essential to encouraging more women into entrepreneurship. For my part, I’m showing my daughter that it’s possible to run a great business and be a great Mum. And I know there are hundreds of thousands of other women doing the same. Let’s raise a glass to them all this International Women’s Day.
About the author
Sharon Melamed, Managing Director, Matchboard