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The Westpac Women in Business Survey

05 May 2012

Over half of Australian women surveyed took a pay cut to own a business and are satisfied with this decision 

Australian women are leaving the corporate work place to start small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) with almost two thirds doing so because they yearn for a level of independence and flexibility they are unable to find in the corporate world. 

The Westpac Women in Business Surveyi has found that while over 50 per cent of women who started SMEs took a pay-cut, 62 per cent of them felt it was worth it. Almost four out of five (77%) women would start their own business again if given the opportunity.  

Larke Riemer, Director Women’s Markets Westpac, said the results show that starting small businesses provides women with more options.  

“The fact that over half of women take a pay-cut to start a business and are happy with this decision doesn’t surprise me. For women, money is not the end-game. It certainly helps and we know that women want their businesses to succeed, but the value of independence to do something they love, with flexibility around hours and work locations cannot be understated.  


“We found that 27 per cent of women surveyed left their corporate jobs to start their own business. For those women who had or were planning to start a family, working from home was a big driver to leave the corporate workplace, with 77 per cent of women providing this as a primary reason they started a business. Over 46 per cent of these women believe it was unrealistic to work full time after having children. Fitting in with family commitments is clearly a priority and shows that women are looking to strike the right balance,” Ms Riemer said.  



Westpac Women in Business Survey 

• 27% of female SME owners left their corporate role to start their own business.  

• Those aged between 30 -39 had the highest propensity to leave corporate life to start their entrepreneurial calling.  

• 51% of women who started their own business took a pay cut  

• The majority who took a pay cut felt it was worth it (62%)  

• 61% were happy running their own business  

• 77% would start their business again given the option to stay in corporate life or become and entrepreneur.  

• 63% quoted independence/ flexibility was the most popular reason as to why women wanted to start their own business.  

• For those women who had or were planning to start a family working from home was a big driver to start own business 77%  

• Retail was the most popular industry to own a business in (34 %). Health and hospitality industries came in second and third place (10% and 6%, respectively). 

• Main financial issues they face:  Maintaining cash flow 45%  & Overhead costs 29%  


While taking a pay cut and being happy with this decision is positive, there are a number of financial obstacles current business owners cite as major challenges to their businesses continuing success such as cash flow, overhead costs and clients not paying on time.  

Ms Riemer said, “It is surprising that this survey group indicated only 14% of these female small business owners have a dedicated financial advisor. Particularly when owning a business, it should be a priority to feel a high degree of confidence in your decision making and financial plans for the future.  

“When you are in business, you have a number of partners; your business partner, your lawyer and your financial advisor. Their advice and oversight helps to isolate where improvements can be made and where opportunities lie – integral for the continued success of any business.” 

The Global Financial Crisis adversely affected two in five businesses surveyed, possibly because the majority of women started businesses in the retail sector.  

Ms Riemer said, “The effect of the Global Financial crisis on SME owners cannot be underestimated. We know that retail across the board has been hit hard. The survey indicated retail to be the most popular industry for women to own businesses in, with over 35 per cent of women from the survey indicating they fall into the retail space. We need to make sure these women are properly supported with the best tools and education to help them thrive in this tough economic climate”. 


Westpac’s Financial Tips for SMEs 

Monitor your cash flow

1) Collect debtors faster
2) Sell stock quicker
3) Pay creditors on time (not early)
4) Finance assets with long term assets / leasing
5) Structure debt properly  

Combat overhead costs
1) Improve operational efficiency
2) Get rid of excess capacity
3) Increase prices (at least in line with inflation)
4) Reduce waste  

Get your clients to pay on time  
1) Follow up, follow up, follow up
2) Provide payment options
3) Invoice on time  

May is National Business Month. In celebration of this, Westpac is giving away a total of $94,500 in grants to 63 small businesses across Australia. The grant recipients in each region will be selected based on excellence in one of three categories 

1. Female Ownership – female business owners who have demonstrated success in one or all areas of their business (e.g. sales / marketing / turn-over / innovation). 

2. Innovation – businesses that have developed a new product or service used innovation to improve business processes or adapted to a changing market place. 

3. Perseverance – businesses that have overcome challenging times and demonstrated true perseverance.  


Small businesses can register for a grant at one of 440 Westpac branches across Australia or go online at