Women-owned Businesses: Grants to Overcome Barriers to Female Entrepreneurship

Women-owned businesses

Women-owned businesses are critical to the success of any economy. They are significant drivers of job creation and economic growth. The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) notes that women represent one in three innovative, high-growth entrepreneurs globally. Women are two out of every five early-stage entrepreneurs globally as well. The World Economic Fund (WEF) looked at data across 22 countries and found the growth in the share of women founders has far outpaced that of men founders over the past five years. There is also an increase in the dollar investments in women-owned businesses worldwide.

The following content highlights different opportunities available to women-owned businesses in Australia, including grant funding and support mechanisms orientated towards women in technology and women in small business.

Introduction

According to the ‘Gender Equality Workplace Statistics’ report released by the Australian Workplace Gender Equality Agency in 2022, women comprise 47.9% of all employed persons in Australia. Of those, 26.3% work full time, of these, only 6.6% account for women in leadership roles (chair positions, directors, CEOs, and key management personnel).

By contrast, there is a higher percentage of women-owned businesses according to the Australian Bureau of statistics (just over 33%), and more than two in five female business operators were aged 40-54. Less than 20% of all people employed in the ICT industry are women, where the lack of female representation at senior levels is even greater.

Why are these Statistics Important?

Increasing the presence of women-owned businesses and women in tech allows for the relevant industries, and especially tech, to innovate and rise to meet the needs of society as a whole. Despite the low number of women in tech and leadership roles, there are promising Government and private initiatives and grant schemes supporting women on their journey. This also includes companies making policy changes to address these inequalities in the workplace, such as increasing transparency, supporting women in more senior roles, implementing gender-neutral recruitment processes, addressing the pay gap, and providing additional training and re-skilling for women.

An increasing number of grants are orientated towards supporting these initiatives, with a focus on promoting women in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

The Success of Women-owned Businesses in Grants

The latest grants research demonstrates that in Australia, the typical grant seeker is a professional, tech-savvy woman. When looking at the grants landscape as a whole, these women make up 75% of the total grant winners, primarily from small organisations in human services and community development.

Despite this success, in industry and STEM related fields according to the Australian Research Council (ARC), women only account for 31% of participants and only 1 in 3 named investigators on applications are women. Gender disparities in STEM and research funding are a significant problem. In 2019, it was found that female scientists were less likely to win research grants than their male counterparts. Only 29.4% of women in senior research positions who applied for the Investigator Grants were successful compared to 49.3% of male applicants with the same experience level. As a result, the total value of grants won favoured male-led researchers.

Similarly, a higher percentage of men receive small business grant funding when compared to women in the same industry, despite the latter submitting more applications. Whilst women entrepreneurs often enjoy great support networks, they may not have the necessary resources to access the information, funds, or further introductions to key industry stakeholders. This all boils down to the fact that there are not enough female entrepreneurs out there that may be able to provide advice, support, and equal opportunity investment to other women starting out.

Why Grants supporting Women-Owned Businesses are Important

Grant programs directly targeting women-owned businesses and industry are essential for challenging the gender-bias. Gender-neutral grant programs can under-serve women as a result of confirmation bias resulting from socio-cultural factors such as maternity leave, which can impact an applicant’s career and achievements. The proportion of women in leadership roles further contributes to these biases with only 45% women in management roles in the education industry, 15% in the construction industry and 20% in the energy and resources industry. The unfortunate outcome of the consistent existence of a funding disparity is known as the ‘Chilling Effect’ often referred as the Leaky Pipeline.

This principle describes the further exclusion of women from progressing their careers due to lack of funding as a result of gender imbalance. Through the promotion of gender equality throughout a range of initiatives within the business industry, women gain exclusive access to grant opportunities that boost participation in STEM and entrepreneurship, finance female-owned businesses for scale into global markets, recognise scientific research and excellence and inspire the next generation of women through improved visibility of successful women.

Government Programs to Break the Bias for Women in Business and Research

Boosting Female Founders

  • This initiative supports female entrepreneurs to overcome the barriers in accessing finance to grow their start-ups. Grants of up to $480,000 are available on a co-contribution basis for female-founded, majority owned and operated start-ups who wish to scale their business into global markets.

Women in Leadership and Development

  • This initiative is in response to the increasing gender inequality in leadership and economic participation opportunities for women in Australia. Grants of $1 million are available to support projects addressing structural and systemic barriers that impede women’s employment progression into leadership.

Women in STEM and Entrepreneurship

  • This initiative encourages the participation of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics leading to STEM education and careers. Grants up to $1 million are available to support investments in gender equity projects that aim for lasting systemic change by eliminating barriers for women’s participation in STEM careers and entrepreneurship.

Investing in Queensland Women Grants

  • This initiative supports community groups and organisations across Queensland to develop and deliver events and/or projects that align with the Queensland Government’s strategic priorities and address the unique issues faced by women and girls. Grants up to $15,000 are available to support, inspire and encourage the Queensland community to respect women, embrace gender equality and promote and protect the rights, interests and wellbeing of women and girls.

Additionally, there are several programs such as the WISE Employment Program – a government initiative run by women for women to support them in their employment journey, returning to work, mental health, and training and coaching for future roles. Not only is it an example of one of the many initiatives supporting women, but it is also a safe space for women to share their ambitions, learn from other women, and become mentors when they choose to give something back.

Government Programs supporting Women-owned Businesses

Online program for NSW Women starting or operating a small business

  • Women in Business provides women living or working in New South Wales with access to a fully subsidised online program to help them establish a new small business or consolidate an existing small business. Additional benefits include insights form Australia’s leading female entrepreneurs, access to small business events and other resources. This program is accessible year-round.

Mentoring and Training for Female entrepreneurs in Queensland

  • This program supports women in Queensland at different stages of their entrepreneurial lifecycle, through networking events, educational webinars, professional development workshops and one-on-one business mentoring. The support is provided on an on-going basis aiming to facilitate the access to resources for female entrepreneurs.

Townsville Businesswomen’s Circle 2022 Leadership Program

  • This program is intended to support Townsville-based women in business by promoting leadership development, creating a safe space for sharing knowledge, promoting women’s physical and mental well-being, and more. This program commences on 01 July 2022.

Additional resources for Women in Tech

Aside from grant opportunities available for women in technology and women-owned businesses, there are numerous resources available to support women in their careers. Whether they’re new to STEM or a tech veteran, there is always something new to learn. Several in-person and online communities support women’s development in tech, mid-career transitions, and workforce development, including

  • Women who code – a membership-based organisation that hosts training seminars for developing soft ad technical skills in the workplace, hosting more than 1,900 events annually,
  • Girls in Tech – a global community with more than 62,000 members and hosts coding bootcamps, networking events, and mentorship programs, in most major cities worldwide, and
  • Girlboss – a social media platform celebrating female accomplishments in the workplace. It is a space for women to share their achievements and network with other leaders.

Australia’s Women in STEM Ambassador is an Australian Government initiative to address gender inequities in STEM, by dressing these inequities through outreach, research projects, and a national digital campaign for children, parents, and carers. Additionally, they build and host free resources to enable the full participation of women and girls in STEM education and careers.

Conclusion

We hope this article not only highlights the importance of creating opportunities specifically for women in technology related careers but provides relevant resources on how to access the support available. Too often women are under-served and under-represented in business and in the STEM industry. A successful entrepreneur is curious, disrupts the status quo, harnesses the power of technology, and invests in themselves. By leveraging the initiatives above designed to boost female presence and leadership, we are working to bridge the gap that exists between male and female entrepreneurs.