Women entrepreneurs double but barriers remain

The number of women entrepreneurs has doubled over the past five years but barriers remain for women taking on senior leadership positions, according to separate studies from the Australian Women Chamber of Commerce & Industry (AWCCI) and the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

AWCCI's first national survey of women entrepreneurs  indicated that the number of women running their own business doubled since 2007, to reach the one-million mark in 2012. The survey also found that 78 per cent of women left their middle to upper management jobs to start their own business. Just over 40 per cent started their business with less than $5000 and 27 per cent now generate more than $250,000 in annual revenue. However, more than half now need capital to grow their business.

According to Yolanda Vega, CEO of AWCCI, the research indicates businesswomen are growing in numbers but still need access to capital.

"To date, women entrepreneurship has been largely neglected. Equal opportunity between men and women, from the perspective of entrepreneurship, is still not a reality," said Ms Vega.

"Women are also the world's biggest consumers. It is essential their businesses survive and grow because women reinvest into their communities, leading to greater economic growth and a flourishing economy."

On the other hand, another survey by the ABS found that a lack of confidence and finding the balance between work and family were key barriers to women taking on senior leadership positions in Australia.

According to the Women in Leadership report, although men and women enter the workforce with similar credentials and career aspirations, their career paths often deviate from each other. Women are less likely to put themselves forward for promotion than men, who exhibit more confidence in their abilities when applying for a higher role. Additionally, the 'glass ceiling' or an 'unconscious bias' towards women progressing from middle to senior leadership is prevalent - though this can apply to leaders of a certain age or race as well.

And when it comes to striking a balance between work and family life, many women are forced to juggle taking care of their children and work full-time. ABS figures illustrate that in 2006, women employed full-time spent 6 hours and 39 minutes per day taking care of dependent children, up 49 minutes over the past nine years. This is compared men in full-time employment, who spent 3 hours and 43 minutes per day taking care of their children, unchanged over the past nine years.

As a result, women are largely under-represented in the corporate world -only 12 per cent are women on ASX's top 200 company boards, only 3.5 per cent are CEOs of the top 200 ASX companies, and 39 per cent are in senior public service positions.

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