Are female entrepreneurs being left behind?

by Janie Smith01 Jul 2014
The numbers for female entrepreneurship in Australia don’t look good – according to research by workplace provider Regus, 77% of Australian business professionals reported an increase in all types of entrepreneurship in the past five years, but only 11% saw this amongst women.

Paul Migliorini, CEO of Regus Australia and New Zealand, said the finding came as a surprise.

“We’re seeing a rise in entrepreneurism and a change in the structure of how people are working. There are a whole lot of people coming back into the workforce that would have otherwise found it difficult, people such as working mums, because working is becoming inherently more flexible, so anecdotally, it was a surprise to us to see that it was such a small level of increase among women. That 11% number is quite stark and it’s even less within the IT industry.”

He said that women appeared to be well-represented in terms of being entrepreneurs and “intrapreneurs” – people showing entrepreneurship within an organisation.

“It feels to us like there’s a perception problem, that entrepreneurialism, in many cases, is defined quite narrowly in the IT and technology sector and in actual fact what we’re seeing is that there is entrepreneurial and innovative behaviour happening across the board.

“There’s a huge rise in things like marketing and the media industry. Perhaps part of the perception challenge is that in Australia, we attach meaning to things like IT, technology and engineering disciplines that are inherently male-dominated, when in actual fact what we’re seeing is innovation, entrepreneurialism and intrapreneurialism happening across the board and it’s definitely well-represented in terms of females.”

Migliorini said that historically, the cutting edge entrepreneurial businesses tended to come out of the engineering disciplines like software and hardware engineering that were male-dominated.

However, things like digital innovation were marketing disciplines and didn’t necessarily require hard technical skills.

“They’re trying to move away from it being just an engineering-oriented thing and bring people in with different backgrounds and disciplines who have an innovation and entrepreneurial mindset. I think you’re seeing that particularly in places like Google where they are bringing a lot of people in from the digital marketing space, not necessarily the hard digital engineering and coding disciplines.”

He said that businesses needed to actively encourage both entrepreneurism and intrapreneurism.

“Australia is a flourishing entrepreneurial culture and one that will hopefully start to include more females. However, we won’t see more female participation unless the country supports it. Businesses should be doing what they can to promote all types of entrepreneurialism to keep up with landscape but even more so amongst women in order to create a more balanced field. Though this may be a long way off, I believe it can be achieved.”

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