Gender diversity

Don’t Bench Half The Team

Flattening the curve has flattened chances of closing the gap. Co-Founder of The Academy for Enterprising Girls, Annie O'Rourke, talks us through what this means for Australia.

By Annie O'Rourke

Gender diversity

Flattening the curve has flattened chances of closing the gap. Co-Founder of The Academy for Enterprising Girls, Annie O'Rourke, talks us through what this means for Australia.

By Annie O'Rourke

As the Covid-19 health crisis swept over our shores, Australia rallied together. Our enormous success in flattening the curve was driven by a spirit of cooperation, all for the national good. State and Federal Governments. Business and communities, working together. But as we turn our attention towards the resulting economic and social crisis a divide as old as time is threatening our ability to respond. That is the gender gap. Some have labelled it a ‘Pink-collar recession’, others have dubbed it the ‘She-cession’. But the indisputable facts are that women have faced greater job losses and cuts to working hours than men.

Between March and April 2020 in Australia, females lost 10 per cent more jobs than males in our major capital cities and 43 per cent more jobs in our regions (ABS 2020). Two months of gendered job losses are expected to further delay the time to reach pay equity by years. The figures were worse again in May as female job losses accelerated. A high school girl studying for her HSC in the year of Covid-19 will have to wait until she is at least 50 for a chance at pay equality with her male peers.

It’s vital the ‘recovery’ process takes account of the gendered challenge before us. Throwing money at male-dominated construction and infrastructure ignores the gendered nature of Covid-19 related job losses, will place a handbrake on the economy and keeps women on the bench, outside the reach of the economic recovery.

“The gender bias experienced by women in entrepreneurship takes root as young as girls in early high school.”

Other decisions like the early removal of JobKeeper from the female-dominated child care industry and reintroduction of full fees before an economic recovery has even started also create real concern about a fatal body blow being dealt to women’s workforce participation.  The reality is the Covid-19 crisis has amplified the structural barriers that have long impacted women’s full participation in the economy. When economic research tells us that investing in specific industries will boost women’s employment and generate a bigger return on investment for both men and women, then it’s the logical next step.

Half Of ‘Team Australia’ Is On The Bench

Imagine for a moment your favourite sporting team were heading into a tough and critical rebuilding season but made the decision to keep half the team on the bench. Not investing in their training, in their skill development, sidelining them from making a contribution to the recovery of the team.  How would you rate their chances of getting back to peak performance? Unlikely at best. Right now, half of ‘Team Australia’ is benched. Women have been sidelined during the Covid-19 health crisis, and now is the time to invest in their skill development, tackle the structural barriers, and create pathways to employment.

Women Job Makers

One of the most powerful ways to create pathways to female employment is to invest in women as Job Makers. By investing in female entrepreneurship to bring parity with men it is estimated that we would stimulate the economy by between a staggering $71 and $135 billion dollars (Boston Consulting).  Research shows that companies with a female founder perform 63% better than companies with all-male founding teams.

Despite the fact that women entrepreneurs experience an additional set of barriers – such as less access to startup capital, fewer professional networks, unconscious and conscious gender bias, and the continued greater burden for child-rearing and domestic work – they are still punching above their weight in many startup industries.

What We Need To Do Next

The gender bias experienced by women in entrepreneurship takes root as young as girls in early high school. The Government has recognised this and taken the first step in co-funding the Academy for Enterprising Girls, an initiative of the Council of Small Business Organisations of Australia. In partnership with industry support, this exciting initiative means we are well placed for a new wave of female entrepreneurs to help drive our recovery in the future.

The Enterprising Girls program helps young girls develop the mindset, skillset and toolset needed to be successful entrepreneurs in their own right, or powerful ‘intrapreneurs’ driving innovation agendas in businesses across Australia. Charting a pathway for national economic recovery driven by female entrepreneurialism will mean investing in the policy initiatives that develop our national mindset, skillset and toolset of female founders.

Australia needs every player off the bench. More initiatives that get more women into business will do just that.