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Women in business - Westpac report's respondents rank support needs

20 March 2019

Women owner managers are on the rise in Australian business. According to ABS figures between 2006 and 2016 there has been a 7.6 percent increase in the number of women who have begun their own business. A recent Westpac Small Business Report had respondents rank nine options where they thought about women entrepreneurs and the support they might need to ensure success.

The pictures the responses (see graph below) paint – depending if they are from men or women - are very different.

Do men have a far brighter view of what women can do than women do themselves? Or, are men blind to the difficulties women face in the business world – whether or not these difficulties are real or perceived?

What women need to succeed in business

In five areas: Balancing business and family; Support and connection; Self-confidence; Financial confidence (e.g. funding and cash flow); Business network/networking opportunities, women identify a much greater need for support in each than the male respondents saw them as needing.

In Gender inclusion, Training, and Business fundamentals, male and female perception were pretty even. Although in Business fundamentals (structures, policies, procedures, etc.), men ranked women as needing more support (25 percent) than women ranked themselves as needing (24 percent).

When it came to ranking ‘if women need support at all’ to succeed in business, 18 percent of men thought women needed “Nothing” as against nine percent of women.

The research, based on a survey of 500 Australian small businesses across all industries, is subtitled the Election Edition. Not only was the report focussed on measuring historical and future business performance and attitudes, it wanted to look at how businesses are feeling about, and intending to react to, the Federal Election, forecast for May this year.

Among the ‘election’ findings: small businesses are delaying decisions until after the Federal Election. One of those decisions is in hiring. Small business creates about 40 percent of new jobs and with 19 percent of the report’s respondents delaying hiring staff until after the election that could stunt job growth. (Twenty percent are also delaying buying equipment.)

However, the Federal Election is not the most important driver of business performance, says the report. The four top drivers are: local economic conditions, global economic conditions, changes in technology and innovation, staff performance.

Comparing the top most 50 successful businesses with the least successful, the report’s business behaviour insights found that where businesses are pro-active, especially in communicating with government and in working with and in the community, they are achieving greater success. These report findings provide helpful tips for increasing business success.

In a recent article by Lauren Capelin on women start-ups, boards and access to venture capital, Lauren pointed to this recent research, which “showed that of 350 companies that went through US-based MassChallenge accelerator programs, for every dollar of funding received, women-founded start-ups generated a return of 78 cents, while male-founders generated less than half that, at 31 cents. This is despite women-founded businesses receiving only 2.2 per cent of total venture funding in both 2017 and 2018 in the US.”

In light of this US research, it would be interesting to understand if business in general thinks there is enough financial support available for female entrepreneurs. The Westpac Small Business Report found that: 27 percent felt women had enough financial support; 31 percent said they did not get enough, and 41 percent were ‘not sure’.

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