The number of Australian women operating their own businesses has steadily increased over the past 20 years. Internationally, Australia’s experience is similar to that of the United Kingdom, where in recent years the number of women in self-employment has been increasing at a faster rate than the number of men. There has been a 46 per cent increase in the number of women business operators over the past two decades.
Women are starting their own businesses to continue their participation in the workforce and are using their education, skills and training to develop flexible working models around caring responsibilities.
And it is working:
As is often the case, the parenting and income earning roles were able to be combined by women running their own businesses. Women who operated businesses were the most likely employed people to have dependent children.
In Australia, a 2003 study using ABS Business Longitudinal Survey data from 1995-96 to 1997-98 (when owner gender was collected) found no significant differences in financial performance and business growth between Australian women’s and men’s businesses. In 2013, women were just as likely as men to have multiple contracts underway.
In 2012, a national research project commissioned by the Australian Women Chamber of Commerce & Industry found that less than 20 per cent of Australian women business owners were tendering for local, State and Federal Government contracts around Australia, but of those that tendered, 60 per cent were successful.
The eS4W roundtables held with women owned businesses and networks in November 2020 demonstrated that collaboration was an opportunity for business growth and that a significant majority of businesses purchased from other women owned businesses.
Lack of finance was the main reason most women (58 per cent) gave for not starting a business when they had been considering doing so.
The round table discussions revealed a number of other issues: