GLOSS Issue 19 DEC 2014-JAN 2015 - Page 31

Here in Australia, we know the gender diversity debate in any field is closely related to other factors such as access to childcare, traditional caring roles, flexible work opportunities and the cost of living. But, post my trip, it begged the question of how the US, a country with less support offered to women, is ahead of us in entrepreneurship. Could the fact that the laws are less favourable to women be driving more to higher degrees of competitiveness, business achievement and growth? Is it that that they are less risk averse and have stronger business networks? Or did they just get a head start in a bigger economy? There isn’t one clear answer. But experts agree on the solutions to the challenges presented. Nicole Watson, Senior Manager, Digital Channels, Commonwealth Bank - Women in Focus Community, believes that more women need to be encouraged within the entrepreneur ‘systems’. She proposes change on a more fundamental level. “Grass roots programs – from school to university and founders institutes, women need to be encouraged – with promising data that entrepreneurship is a viable and valuable path to start on. Female entrepreneurs sharing their stories with young women is vital for this process,” says Watson. Recognising the lack of funding options for women, the last two to three years have seen more women focused angel and seed investors enter the market to drive the change they want to see. According to McKenzie, “We need more female investors so that in turn female entrepreneurs are able to raise more capital. We need to address the unconscious bias and lack of encouragement in the venture capital (VC) community for both female entrepreneurs and investors, who have been leaving the traditional VC firms (Aspect VC in the US, Arbor Partners in Asia), establishing their own women led firms or angel investing directly (Scale in Australia, Golden Seeds in the US).” As we move on to the next Women’s Entrepreneurship Day, we need to consciously be involved in the change we want to bring about, take an avid interest in our investments big and small – from the holiday savings account to our superannuation and capital investments and be more involved in supporting other women entrepreneurs. Each of us has a role to play in creating an ecosystem that supports women entrepreneurs. Let’s start today, so we can share our own stories of success in a year’s time.