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Why we need to celebrate Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

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Women’s entrepreneurship should be celebrated every day, but there is a special day for it: Women’s Entrepreneurship Day is celebrated globally on 19 November.

Women’s Entrepreneurship Day Organisation (WEDO), was started by US serial entrepreneur, Wendy Diamond in 2013.  Wendy was inspired by visiting Honduras and seeing, amongst the poverty, the positive impact microcredit had on women’s ability to earn money through business. Globally, around 250 million women and girls live in poverty, and the ability to participate in the economy is key to breaking the cycle.

The first Women’s Entrepreneurship Day was held at the United Nations in 2014. The day has now been proclaimed by the United Nations and in many countries throughout the world (but not yet in Australia). Australia has six WEDO Ambassadors (including me, serving as WEDO Ambassador for the ACT).

Women, business and pandemic

This year, Women’s Entrepreneurship Day will take place against the backdrop of celebrating the importance of fostering entrepreneurship in difficult times. COVID has impacted women disproportionately more than men—and that includes business.  According to a World Bank Gender Innovation Lab report, female-owned businesses were 5.9% more likely to close during the pandemic than male-owned businesses.

Wendy Diamond believes that at this juncture the need to support women’s entrepreneurship is vital.

“Our message of supporting and empowering women in business to help uplift girls living in poverty is more needed, pivotal, and impacting now more than ever!” she said.

In Australia, 38% of small businesses are female-owned—and that number is growing. The reasons for starting a business are varied, but speaking from my own experience, it includes things like greater flexibility in managing family commitments, a desire to make a positive impact, and committing to implementing our ‘why’.

For many, lockdown and COVID led to women changing how they think about a traditional job. Many people no longer want to commute long distances to sit in an office and perform a job all day that no longer gives them joy—or be in a toxic workplace environment. Perhaps unsurprisingly, we are experiencing the great resignation where people are choosing happiness and purpose over pre-COVID same-same.

Success and barriers

Female founded businesses are far from inferior to men. In fact, research shows that women-led startups and businesses overall are more successful than male-led businesses. According to Bostin Consulting Group research, globally women-founded and co-founded startups return 78 cents per dollar invested compared with 31 cents for men-founded start-ups. Further, the pre-COVID estimate of boosting the number of female-led entrepreneurs could bring between $71 to $135 billion to Australia’s economy.

Yet women receive much less business funding than men. According to a study by All Raise, while the overall amount of venture capitalist funding for startups increased in 2020, startups led by all-women founding teams accounted for only 2.3% of the funding raised. This compared with 86% to all-male founding teams.

Canberra and women entrepreneurs

As a proud Ken Behren woman, I think Canberra is an awesome place to be in business. We are fortunate to have several women-specific networking groups for women, and also a supportive architecture.

The Canberra Innovation Network (CBRIN), for instance, is committed to supporting women and men in business. It profiles local woman entrepreneurs through its Women in Innovation series and runs a successful female founders program. Half of the grantees in the July Innovation Connect (ICON) funding round were female founders.

Recently, CBRIN held a focus session on behalf of the ACT Government to explore ideas and options for increasing and supporting female entrepreneurship.

“The focus session brought together female leaders and founders, who put ideas on the table ranging from reverse mentoring, specific training and networking,” said CBRIN CEO Petr Adámek. “There was real dynamism at the meeting, which reflects the strength of women in business within Canberra.”

Women’s Entrepreneurship Day—online event

For Antipodeans, there’s an online event this Friday 19 November to celebrate Women’s Entrepreneurship Day that brings together a fabulous lineup of keynote speakers, panellists and workshops. The event is free—with a donation of $27 encouraged but not essential. While the event is for a full day, participants can attend however many sessions they like.

Theme Rains, WEDO Ambassador for Australia, said the event has been crafted to celebrate women entrepreneurs and provide them with practical tools. “The Australian and New Zealand online seminar is designed to inspire, educate and challenge,” she said.

Keynote speakers at the online event include: former Telstra CEO (New Zealand), serial entrepreneur and philanthropist Theresa Gattung CNZM; diversity and leadership changemaker Winitha Bonney OAM, Heads over Heels Co-founder Melissa Widner, and bestselling author Danielle Ecuyer.

Participating Canberrans include Tara Cheyne MLA, Minister for Business and Better Regulation; Bianca Pritchard, Jiindi Ecospa; Rae Knopik, The CBR Gals Network; Sheena Ireland, Canberra Women in Business; Lisa LaMaitre, Women with Altitude Canberra; Misty Henkel, sales and marketing queen, and ANU academic Dr Birgit Muskat. The SRBEC will also provide practical workshops for participants.

Tickets for the online event are free or by donation, with funds raised being used to support WEDO activities in Australia and New Zealand.

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