It takes a village: propelling female start-ups in Australia
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that 'it takes a village to raise a child'. And in many ways, the same metaphor can be applied to describe nascent entrepreneurs, 'it takes a village to raise an entrepreneur!'.
At least this was the takeaway from this morning's Women in Innovation meeting with Minister for Women and Minister for Employment, Senator Michaelia Cash, and Assistant Minister for Innovation, the Hon. Wyatt Roy MP.
Hosted by Fishburners in Sydney's Ultimo, the Ministers gathered 50 eminent female entrepreneurs and thought leaders to discuss and brainstorm about women's role in innovation in Australia.
Lucy Turnbull AO gave the opening address. Chief Disruptor Anne Marie-Elias facilitated the panel of Gen George (One Shift), Jessica Wilson (Stashd) and Nikki Durkin (99 Dresses). The ladies bounced ideas drawn from their experiences in the tech start-up space. Three clear themes emerged from the discussion that resonated with the panel and the guests; collaboration, mentorship and education.
CollaborationThere are two sides to this story. The first is accepting what you know and what you don't know, and how to bridge the two through collaboration. Through collaboration, we learn, and we create ideas. And importantly, it optimises the capacity of the business. The second side to the collaboration story is drawing entrepreneurs out of isolation and into collaborative workspaces. Start-up hubs like Fishburners, which has the largest concentration of tech start-ups in Australia, fosters collaboration by bringing together entrepreneurs in a co-working space.
Finding a mentor to guide women entrepreneurs is critical for business transformation. The catchphrase quoted was, 'you can't be what you can't see'. I fundamentally disagree with this statement as it goes against the very nature of the entrepreneurial mindset. But mentors are important, particularly those who have trodden a similar path. For women with kids, that might be a fellow 'mumpreneur'. For women in fashion tech, that might be a man or a woman who has previously carved a niche in that sector. For most people, it will be a number of mentors during different crossroads during the entrepreneurial journey.
The Government must mandate entrepreneurship education into primary, secondary and tertiary education curriculum. Driving today's meeting was the tech scene, so the teaching of coding dominated the discussion. Teaching coding is one aspect in a broad spectrum of possibilities to teach entrepreneurship, including technical skills (bookkeeping) and soft skills (identifying opportunities). But as Nikki Durkin said, what fundamentally needs to change is the narrative that you go to school, go to university and get a job. Times have changed, and the education system needs to keep up.
So, what does the village need to do to raise a generation of women entrepreneurs? It needs to encourage collaboration between and within businesses. It needs to provide mentoring opportunities that will guide the entrepreneur through business transformation. And it needs to equip women with the technical skills while uneducating them from the traditional life-course mindset.
What do you think? How else can the Government support the burgeoning movement of women entrepreneurs in Australia?
Banner photo courtesy of @ChiefDisruptor, Anne-Marie Elias