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Media releases

Gender barriers restrict women in small business


20 May 2015

Male and female small business owners do not see eye to eye when it comes to gender issues, according to the latest Westpac-Melbourne Institute Small Business Index.
While more than a third (39.2 per cent) of female small business owners or decision makers believe that women are disadvantaged when it comes to starting a business, less than a fifth (16.1 per cent) of male small business owners recognise that disadvantage.
The Index found that having to split time between work and family is the most commonly identified barrier to women who are starting or running a small business. Almost nine in ten (88.7 per cent) women see balancing work and family as a barrier to other women, with 65.9 per cent of men agreeing it is an issue.
“Australia has a lot of inspiring female entrepreneurs who are really driving the small business sector,” said Julie Rynski, Westpac General Manager of Small Business.
“In my conversations with business owners around Australia, I’ve seen that there are increasing numbers of women starting businesses in rapidly growing industries such as online retail and consulting.”
“We know that flexibility is one of the key reasons that many women choose to start up their own business, yet our findings show that many women are still struggling to achieve this – potentially indicating that we do not yet have the understanding or support mechanisms that encourage flexibility for those who are balancing work and family life.”

Male and female perspectives are also substantially different when it comes to perceived barriers faced by women in small business, with more than half (51.3 per cent) of female respondents citing gender bias as a barrier facing women in the sector, compared to only 18 per cent of men recognising this. More than half (57.3 per cent) of female and just over a third (33.3 per cent) of male small business owners identified ‘financial constraints’ as an additional barrier faced by women in the sector.
“It is positive to see that despite the barriers, more than half (55.5 per cent) of women currently owning or running a small business say that the start-up and small business sector is inviting for other female entrepreneurs,” added Ms Rynski.
“There is a proven and tangible economic benefit from increased female participation in the workforce and the SME sector is no exception. We have so many local success stories that stem from women who have started and grown small businesses and we need to ensure that our society continues to foster new generations of entrepreneurs.”
“Owning or running a small business already comes with a unique set of challenges and we hope that by recognising and drawing awareness to gender barriers for SME owners, government and corporate stakeholders can work together to address the hurdles that are preventing more women from entering the sector.”
“Small business is the backbone of the Australian economy and we need to do everything we can to spur its continued growth and momentum.”