Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the sixth "Women in Global Business Speaker Series".
I would like to acknowledge in particular our guests from the Korean Women Chief Executive Officers trade mission joining us today, as well as my state colleague Ros Bates, Queensland Minister for Science, Information Technology, Innovation and the Arts.
Here in Brisbane and at Women In Global Business Speaker seminars around Australia, participants will hear from women whose achievements in business are truly inspirational.
In different ways, all of them have shown how it is possible for women to succeed in the competitive arena of international business, and this brings me to something I want to use as my starting point today.
Women face all kinds of challenges in global business, challenges I will touch on in a moment, but we should not lose sight of the fact they also enjoy tremendous opportunities.
This is especially true here in Australia, where we are fortunate to find ourselves located alongside the growth markets of what has become the world's most economically dynamic region.
In both historical and geographic terms, we stand on the cusp of an Asian Century which will bring benefits for everyone, including Australian businesswomen.
The extraordinary rise of China's economy is an important part of this phenomenon but is not the whole story; prosperity and increased urbanisation is spreading from India to Indonesia.
We all know how much of an impact this is having on the mining industry, and the achievements of my fellow speaker, Kim Parascos of iVolve, show how inspirational dynamic women can succeed in a male dominated industry.
My colleague, the Minister for Trade and Competitiveness, Craig Emerson, noted recently that if Australia can gain access to just one per cent of Asia's growing middle class over the next 20 years, it will be the equivalent of tapping into a market the size of Australia.
Indeed, the rising Asian middle class is generating demand for products besides resources, products Australian business women are well qualified to provide: everything from education to horticultural goods like those supplied through Birkdale Nursery by one of my fellow speakers, Barbara McGeoch.
And just as Asia's economic transformation goes well beyond China, growth markets extend well beyond Asia, into Latin America, Central Asia and Africa.
That is why the theme of this year's Women in Global Business Speaker Series — Growth Markets — is so timely.
Price Waterhouse Cooper refers to what it calls the E7 — the world's seven largest emerging, growth economies: China, India, Brazil, Russia, Indonesia, Mexico and Turkey.
Today we will be joined via video postcard by women from two of these E7 countries.
To give you an idea of the shift in global economic power that is now occurring, PwC estimates that by 2020, the combined GDP of these countries, as measured in Purchasing Power Parity terms, will be greater than that of the G7, that group of wealthier countries made up by the United States, Japan, Germany, UK, France, Italy and Canada.
If these predications are borne out, the opportunities emerging in Asia will be repeated on a global scale.
In this Speaker Series, we are focused mainly on opportunities for enterprising Australian women, but let us not forget those opening up for the women who live in growth markets themselves.
Today Lyndall DeMarco from Griffith University's Asia Pacific Centre for Sustainable Enterprise will share some of her experiences in helping empower such women.
Challenges for Women in Global Business
Of course, we all know that women everywhere face tremendous hurdles establishing a successful export business.
Three have been identified:
- Women have a tougher work-life balance
- Women are more averse to risk
- Women are less inclined to enter international markets.
In the context of the opportunities growth markets are offering exporters and investors, this means there is a greater urgency for women in business to feel more confident about facing these challenges.
Amanda Hodges, Acting Consul-General and Austrade's Trade Commissioner in Istanbul, will bring her perspective on some these challenges, which can vary greatly, along with diverse business cultures in each market.
Amanda, I might add, has just finished a period working in Dubai for Austrade, so her acquaintance with the emerging markets of the Middle East will also inform her perspective.
The Government's role
The Gillard Government is well aware of the hurdles all Australians face in international business, which is why we are doing everything possible to help.
One example of this is our effort to build public and private sector capability through the Asian Century white paper process.
We are also providing more targeted assistance from Austrade, with increased resources in the markets I have just been talking about, while continuing to fund Export Market Development Grants and advice through TradeStart offices.
And we continue to negotiate a more level international playing field for Australian business through the forums such as the WTO and APEC, and through bilateral free trade agreements.
Challenges at home
Even before Australian businesswomen leave our shores, they must often have to negotiate numerous barriers at home.
Recent research conducted by Australian Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry in association with Women in Global Business found just ten per cent of businesses owned by women are involved in exporting.
While we know that more women than ever are starting their own businesses, the proportion of those exporting is consistently lower than men.
A quarter of women surveyed by the Chamber said that, in their business lives, they felt discriminated against due to their gender.
The vast majority worked on the weekends, despite 17 per cent saying they founded their business partly to achieve a better work/life balance.
Almost 20 per cent per cent were also sole parents.
Information such as this is important in helping the Government find better ways to support women, and I urge you all to participate in another WIGB research project currently being conducted online with the University of Melbourne.
I also encourage you to take 20 minutes and complete the questionnaire, Motivations and Barriers to Internationalisation, links for which you will find in your seminar material today and on the WIGB website.
Better collection of data about women involved in Small and Medium-sized enterprises is a key component of the APEC Declaration of 16 September 2011, signed by Australia at the first Women's Economic Summit in San Francisco.
The Declaration lays out concrete steps for signatories to improve women's access to capital and markets, build capacity and skills and increase the number of women in leadership roles.
All of these things are priorities for the Government and better information will help us achieve them.
We have taken some steps already, including strengthening the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency, introducing Australia's first paid parental leave scheme and increasing childcare assistance.
And of course we continue to provide targeted support through WIGB itself, which is a joint initiative with our state and territory partners.
We know that women face huge challenges in global business but our successful guests in this Series show the vast opportunities that are available.
In my travels as Parliamentary Secretary for Trade, I am constantly struck by the exciting changes occurring in growth markets, changes which have the potential to transform the lives of women everywhere.
As a member of the Gillard Labor Government, I am honoured by the chance to help make this happen and to officially open the Women in Global Business Series
- Parliamentary Secretary's Office: (02) 6277 4554
- Departmental Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555