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Gender inequality is not just about pay

01:00pm July 09 2024

Female founders receive less than 2 per cent of venture capital globally, according to a World Economic Forum report. (Getty)

Access to finance is an issue that often gets overlooked in the conversation about gender inequality. 

Public debate tends to focus on the gender pay gap - and with good reason. The global gender pay gap was 68.4 per cent closed in 2023, according to the latest World Economic Forum Report, and at the current rate of progress it will take women 131 years to reach full pay parity with men. 

But while it’s important that we keep agitating for positive change on that front, we must also not lose sight of other forms of inequality in business and economic life. 

I recently attended the Financial Alliance for Women Summit held in London, where the focus was on women’s access to capital. 

Over 400 million women entrepreneurs around the world have vast potential to grow their businesses, add value to the economy, and create jobs, but they lack the financing to achieve their goals. 

They represent a $1.7 trillion growth opportunity for financial service providers and $5-6 trillion in potential value addition to the global economy, according to a report by the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative, yet currently female founders receive less than 2 per cent of venture capital globally.

Over 250 people from 149 institutions and from 58 countries gathered at the FAW Summit to learn and discuss how to support women entrepreneurs – from starting up, to growing, and ultimately exiting a business – and the types of financing required at each stage, including angel investment, debt finance and venture capital. 

Panelists and keynote speakers also highlighted the importance of non-financial services – such as education, mentoring, and recognition programs – in helping to grow and expand female-led businesses.

Westpac, as a founding member of the Alliance in 2000, is playing a part in closing the finance gap. 

In 2023, Westpac Business Lending announced new measures including loans dedicated to helping small businesses get started or to grow. These measures also help support Westpac's $500 million commitment to back more women in business.

Westpac has partnered with the University of New South Wales Founders’ 10X Accelerator Program to provide funding for three $20,000 scholarships designed to support women to balance work and personal commitments while participating in the program.

The bank has also teamed up with Fishburners - a community hub for early-stage startups which provides entrepreneurs with access to investment and economic development opportunities, mentoring, facilities and educational resources. 

Fishburners’ Ascent Project features an Incubator and Accelerator program, which aim to increase the representation of female founders in the startup ecosystem. 

There’s still a long way to go, but programs such as these are helping many women realise their potential in the business world.

Rachael joined Westpac Group in 2009 after a long career in financial markets in both Sydney and London. From 2010-2016 Rachael was National Manger, Women’s Markets, with responsibility for driving growth of the segment and execution of the Women’s Markets program to position Westpac as Bank of Choice for Women. Rachael is on the Executive Committee of Women of Westpac Employee Action Group and is also a member of the divisional DEI Council.

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