Last year, I was pleased to launch the Women in Global Business program at the annual Australian Export Awards in Sydney.
Women in Global Business is designed to encourage businesswomen to expand their operations overseas and, by so doing, broaden their market and chances of success.
As we know — economic growth liberates people and trade is such an important part of that process.
Creating viable businesses through new international markets allows people to fulfil their dreams, no matter where they live — an important consideration when you think of people living in isolated rural and regional areas in Australia and those in less developed countries abroad.
Exporting is a tough business, for everyone. It requires organisation, drive, knowledge and more than a bit of luck.
The reality is — Businesswomen often — especially — face tougher challenges because of balancing family commitments with the demands of the commercial world.
Almost 80 per cent of men who run a business work full-time — yet the comparable figure for women with a business is just 43 per cent.
Women in Global Business is designed to assist women better navigate these challenges.
So I am pleased to be here today for the speaker series for Women in Global Business which I note will feature a seminar in each State and the ACT.
Today I'd like to talk a bit about the challenges women in business face when they become exporters and also how Women in Global Business can help them.
Women in exporting
The essential challenge is this — almost a third of Australian businesses are operated by women and this is a growing trend.
According to research by Bankwest, the number of women starting businesses grew by 7 per cent in the last five years, compared to 1.9 per cent for men.
Yet only 9 per cent of small-to-medium sized firms operated by women were exporters in 2009. In fact, women who manage SMEs export at a consistently lower rate than their male counterparts.
Moreover, the number of women SME exporters is falling at a time when the Australian economy is becoming increasingly internationalised — for instance, in 2007, the figure was 11 per cent.
One of the aims of Women in Global Business is to explain the reasons for this trend through more in-depth research.
But we have identified at least three important factors so far.
- It appears women are more risk averse than men.
- Women face tougher ―work- life‖ balance choices.
- Foreign cultures and laws are more likely to be a deterrent than an opportunity for women considering exporting.
In many ways, the difficulties women must overcome to become exporters reflect the broader challenges to the success of women in business.
For instance, just 27 per cent of senior management positions are held by women and 45 per cent of Australian companies have no female managers.
At the board level of the ASX200, only 8.4 per cent of boards had women members in June 2010.
A role for government
Lifting the participation rate of women in business — and in exporting specifically — is a priority for the Gillard Government.
The Office of Women has found that 76 per cent of women who operate SMEs and who need export advice have gone to the Australian Government for help.
Women in Global Business is a cooperative effort between the States and Territories on one hand, and Austrade — the Australian Government's trade and investment development agency — on the other.
The program brings together successful women in exporting — and also from the corporate world — with women who are just starting out in exporting.
Successful, experienced people can inspire others to do bigger and better things.
By providing information and resources, education, training, mentors and commercial contacts, Women in Global Business will help women export their goods and services.
At a broader level, the Gillard Government is implementing a range of policies which contribute to the overall aim of allowing women in export to tap into the world's growth centres.
These include a strong trade agenda which supports the finalisation of the Doha Round of the World Trade Organization, and the pursuit of Free Trade Agreements with important trading partners such China, Japan and Korea.
Austrade also provides export advice, along with its Export Market Development Grants and TradeStart offices.
We believe that the Gillard Government's high-speed National Broadband Network, its strong infrastructure program and its skills development policy will contribute to the overall capacity of women to export.
Greater gender equality in the workplace will also create a more positive climate for women in business, which is why the Labor Government moved to strengthen the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency earlier this year.
This Government has also introduced Australia's first paid parental leave scheme and increased childcare assistance, both of which assists women's participation in the workforce.
There are now new and emerging opportunities for exporters, especially in Asia, which is now the centre of global growth and the location of our biggest export markets, but also in the United States.
In 2010, for example, Australia's two-way trade with China exceeded A$100 billion for the first time. And Japan was our second largest trading partner, with A$66.1 billion in trade, followed by the US, with A$49.8 billion.
China's middle class is growing strongly. There will be continuing demand for our minerals and energy, but China will also be buying a broader range of goods and services. This will open up more opportunities for entrepreneurial Australian women in business.
Next month (August), the Foreign Minister and the Trade Minister will lead a trade mission to China, where they will visit some of China's growing regional cities along with Australian business representatives.
The Australia-China 2.0 Trade Mission, will highlight new opportunities emerging in China as it refocuses its economy away from export-led development to domestic consumption.
After a review of its operations, announced in May, Austrade is also refocusing its efforts in frontier and growth markets in Africa, Latin America and Central Asian nations such as Mongolia.
The opportunities are clearly there along with solid support from the Gillard government.
I recommend Women in Global Business as a good first step on the path to success in international markets.
(L-R) Cynthia Balogh, National Program Manager Australian Women in Global Business (AWIGB), Austrade; Justine Elliot, Parliamentary Secretary for Trade; Nussara Smith, Director Overseas Market Development, Trade and Investment Queensland; and Cheryl Stanilewicz, Queensland State Manager, Austrade.
Women in Global Business Speaker Series, Brisbane, 19 July 2011.
- Parliamentary Secretary's Office: (02) 6277 4554
- Departmental Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555