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Style and substance

07 May 2012


Because, why would you pass up the opportunity to showcase the capabilities of women in business in Australia?

Of course, we all know nothing in business ends and our relationship with the GBA continues. This year, the work we do at Westpac in Women’s Markets is to be the subject of a report by the World Bank and the IFC (International Finance Corporation). The report’s being done to establish the global benchmarks for best practice in accelerating the growth of women in business and women’s wealth creation internationally, while generating superior business outcomes for GBA member financial institutions.

Running hot on the heels of our recent glowing report card with the IMF (International Monetary Fund), you’d be correct in saying Australia’s flavour of the month for our know-how, and under close scrutiny. 

Returning from overseas, where GBA members and World Bank executives have been discussing the size and strength of the small medium enterprise (SME) market globally and the role women play in it, I can’t help but be excited about our focus this month on SMEs and very proud of the women in this country and what they achieve. 

We’re resilient, and out there in the marketplace doing our best. And even though I know the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) has meant some of us are doing it really tough, I can’t help thinking we’re a very lucky country. 

Truth be known, there are more than two million businesses in Australia, of which 95% are SMEs. Such numbers make SMEs a huge part of our growth economy. SMEs are the backbone of the country. 

Women own 32% of those SMEs and if we also take into account the businesses in which women are significant influencers or decision-makers that makes our role in the economy hugely impactful.

So, it won’t come as any big surprise that this month being our business month we have the ‘Female Economy’, and how we can support it in a tangible and ongoing way, firmly on our minds. 

We’ve invested in research that looks closely at current operators to discover what obstacles there are to their further growth and success. (Back in 2011 our research with existing customers identified Cash Flow as a major preoccupation… and that remains top of the list of concerns.) 

We’ve also looked at women wishing to begin their own businesses and asked them to help us identify barriers to entry and how we can work together to reduce and remove them. 

To provide tangible outcomes for women, we’re offering business seminars on cash flow and on social media in all capital cities. Look out for invitations and more information on Ruby.

Across the country, Westpac is also running a business award initiative targeting the achievements of SMEs. The Ruby award, specifically for women business owners, celebrates our strength in business. Each regional winner will receive a grant to support them on the journey.

While I was in the States I also met up with Elizabeth Vazquez (one of our featured business women this month, along with fashion designer Leona Edmiston). 

Elizabeth is the CEO of WEConnect International – a not-for-profit that aims to harness the interest large global corporations have in pioneering and fostering a wider vision of global supplier development and inclusion. 

WEConnect’s corporate members – from Accenture to Walmart via everything in between and including Westpac as a founding member in Australia – represent more than US$700 billion in annual purchasing power. The aim of the corporate members is to spend more of this annual purchasing power on women business owners that are ready to compete for contracts, and WEConnect joins the dots in the picture. 

Westpac understands that a diversified supplier base better reflects our markets, increases shareholder value and enhances competitive advantage and we’re onboard for the long-term – along with the launch in May 2012.

Elizabeth has just joined the GBA board and is one of those women who moves with incredible speed, putting into action the talk: opening doors for women owned businesses that are ready to take the next step up the ladder and compete for truly life changing contracts. 

It’s a similar feeling to where I can see some of our Mary Reibey scholarship winners reaching forward to soon. Each of our winners so far, and there’ve been four of them already, have sung the praises of the AGSM’s General Manager course: accelerating to new levels their personal skills, knowledge, abilities and business confidence. The end of this month marks the final chance for your 2012 applications. It really would be a shame to miss out.

Like work and life, you’ve gotta be in it to win it, as they say. Certainly, when I was young I never really imagined I’d be 60 and still doing it – work, that is – and I never thought I’d still be evolving and growing, finding the older I get the more invigorating it is every day.