For a while now, the words “confidence” and “women” have been appearing in the same sentence.
Usually it is “women lack confidence to take the next career step” or “women don’t have the confidence to take risks” or “women don’t have the confidence to get on top of their finances”. There are many other variations.
But one thing consistent to all is it always seem to be that women lack confidence in something.
Sure, there are women that do lack confidence in, say, their career prospects, financial knowledge and so forth. And I am not denying that there is much we can do to boost the financial and career confidence of women.
But I’d challenge this as a blanket view. There are plenty of women that do have the confidence to become entrepreneurs, to establish businesses and grow them for many reasons, be it flexibility, ambition to leave the corporate workspace or visionary ideas.
Globally, women control more than 34 per cent of privately-owned businesses, according to The World Bank. The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor has also found a 10 per cent increase in women’s entrepreneurship rates in the past two years. Meanwhile Mastercard has found in Australia, we are leading the field in the Asia Pacific region for female entrepreneurship with the number of female owners up 7.6 per cent over the last decade, compared to a rise of just 0.3 per cent for men.
So, what is the problem?
As widely reported, one major issue is the gaps in the ability of women-owned businesses to obtain funding and or access to markets. The numbers are astonishing – the World Bank reporting a US$1.7 trillion finance gap for women-owned micro, small and medium enterprises.
Imagine if that gap was even partially closed the impact it would have on economies and communities in which these businesses operate.
For the past year, experts from many of the world’s largest and most progressive financial institutions came together as the Council on Scaling Women-Owned Businesses to investigate how to scale women-owned businesses by providing opportunities, tools and resources that link access to markets with access to finance.
The resultant report from the Council, released this month, highlights the need for more financial organisations to consider a more holistic approach to women-owned businesses. What became apparent was that many organisations either had initiatives to increase access to finance or access to markets but very few had a holistic approach to both.
Here at Westpac, for a number of years we’ve attempted to do just that through collaboration between the Business Bank, our Women’s Markets team and our Group Procurement and Partnerships. Through business expos we’ve enabled female owned businesses to learn how to tender for some of our supply contracts, connecting them to buying teams across the organisation. There’s also been a focus on providing advice on lending and connecting to a broader network via Women’s Markets, which businesses like Sydney stationery and custom-design product company Corban & Blair have engaged with.
As the nation looks to recover from the deep COVID-19 economic downturn, there is a real opportunity to encourage a more inclusive recovery with organisations reassessing their supply chains and financial institutions focusing on how they fund businesses.
If organisations can do this simultaneously, we can increase the success of women as businessowners, suppliers, job creators and engines of sustainable prosperity.
No, access is the key.