Story Package | Battle of the Sexes

There is no question that monumental strides have been taken towards gender equality, yet the age-old conversation continues to leave many with a profound sense of frustration.

The roundabout discussion regarding gender is a multifaceted issue, holding precedence in all things from education and domestics to fashion and sport. Though, possibly the most debated point of the topic is gaps in the workplace.

Having long been left to simmer, only to be watered down by excuses and inadequate efforts for change, gender inequality in the workplace- and more broadly, the business sector- is slowly but surely progressing into the 21st century, whereby acceptance is key.

Taking a step in the right direction and leading by example is large corporations such as Qantas, who have recently unveiled their new pilots uniforms. For the first time, the Australian airline has had their female pilots in mind when showcasing their new uniforms, designed for both women and men.

Such movements, whether it be through uniforms, income or career advancement, encourage the succession of women in business. The most recent GEDI Female Entrepreneurship Index has revealed Australia- second, only to the US- as the best place in the world for female entrepreneurs.

Sharon Hunneybell has been involved in the Gold Coast startup scene for many years | Picture: Startup Apprentices
Sharon Hunneybell has been involved in the Gold Coast startup scene for many years | Picture: Supplied by Startup Apprentices

Though, despite these successes, complacency will be our undoing with the magnitude of the problem far outweighing the progress.

Co-founder of Startup Apprentice Sharon Hunneybell says “I don’t know if we will ever have gender equality on boards, in senior leadership or in some professions”

2015 saw the gender pay gap reach a 20-year high of almost 17.9 per cent across all industries and management levels, while the ABS reported that the male population continues to dominate over 75 per cent of all business operators, nationwide.

“I think businesses need to ensure that they are open to offering both genders equal opportunities and should always appoint roles on skills and merit, never to meet a quota,” Sharon continued

Similarly to Qantas, Australia Post is taking a proactive stance in closing the gender gap. Moving away from workplace inequalities and into the broader business sector, Australia Post is strongly focused on female entrepreneurs, giving women greater confidence to start their own businesses.

In a bid to promote their newest community engagement program ‘Tall Poppies,’ chief executive of Australia Post, Ahmed Fahour, wrote an article for The Sydney Morning Herald.

We can create enormous economic opportunities and social benefits for communities throughout Australia by simply boosting the confidence of female entrepreneurs to start and grow a business.

 The Tall Poppies program aims to connect women across the country, providing a platform for networking allowing members to discover potential as entrepreneurs.

Why is Australia Post interested in assisting with the start up of female led small businesses?

“Of course, at Australia Post we have a self-interest in this, too. Our nationwide logistics network helps small businesses get their product to their customers. So their success is our success,” said Mr. Fahour.

The initiative is widely supported, with a full house at the 2016 Tall Poppies Summit held in Melbourne last month.

Featuring a long list of highly respected keynote speakers, the summit ultimately called for the success of more Australian female businesswomen.

“We want women to say the ‘b word’, to know that ‘billion is OK’, that’s it’s a good thing to aspire to,” Springboard Enterprises director Topaz Conway told the room.

So, who’s up for the challenge?

Stacey O’Keeffe, director of Fashion Weekly certainly is.

Stacey O'Keeffe bought Fashion Weekly as a blog and has transformed it into an online platform for fashion, culture and lifestyle | Picture: Taylah Scanlon
Stacey O’Keeffe bought Fashion Weekly as a blog and has transformed it into an online platform for fashion, culture and lifestyle | Picture: Taylah Scanlon

“I think the opportunities are flourishing. If we just keep striving, I think, we are sort of breaking out of that world where women have to do this or women have to do that. We can do whatever we want.”

Also not shying away from the uphill battle, Sharon says the future is bright for women in business.

“Mumpreneurs are on the rise- I think we will see more and more women exercising their creativity and finding new ways to make an income and remain flexible around their families as cost of living continues to rise and single income households become less viable.”

Are you ready to defy the statistics and venture into an entrepreneurial career? Find out what it takes to be one of Australia’s most successful ‘mumpreneurs’ in the follow on story, A Day in the Life: Maxine Horne 


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