Australian startup sector still overwhelmingly led by men, as women-led startups attract very little funding

Australian startup sector still overwhelmingly led by men, as women-led startups attract very little funding

Susan Ho

The startup sector in Australia is still overwhelmingly male-dominated and women are receiving just a teeny-tiny proportion of overall funding.

That’s according to the latest Australian Startup Salary Guide 2019/2020, released this week by AWS and Think & Grow.

The report analyzed the salaries of 1000 people working in 63 different VC-backed Australian startups to give a snapshot of the Australian startup ecosystem.

Very few of the founders of these startups were female, with the report finding those female-founded startups that were surveyed had not attracted more than $3 million in funding, with male-founded startups raising more than $50 million.

It also found that women are still underrepresented across the startup sector, particularly in STEM and leadership positions, with women making up just 12.9 per cent of founder Chief Technology Officers and zero Chief Financial Officer roles. Women did dominate in senior marketing, holding 75 per cent of such roles, and made up 50 per cent of senior HR roles and 55 per cent of roles in customer service. Women also account for 77 per cent of office manager roles.

Overall, women hit the majority across “low-level roles” and were underrepresented in executive positions, according to the report. And the more money a startup has raised, the less likely women are to be in key leadership positions. When examining the startups that have raised between $10 million and $50 million, the report found women were missing in CFO roles, CTO roles, VP Engineering roes, Head of Operations roles and VP/Head of Sales roles.

The lack of women in key STEM and leadership positions is disappointing. Especially when you take a look at the leadership roles with the highest salaries in Australian startups. Of the businesses that have raised between $10 million and $50 million, those in ‘founder, CEO’ roles are on an average of $227,551, with CTOs taking home $202,100 and CFOs on $207,100.

And according to the report, salaries and career opportunities in Australian startups are expected to remain resilient during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

Despite these figures, it’s interesting to note that some of Australia’s most celebrated ‘startups’ that have gone on to become fast-growing ‘unicorns’, prominently feature women in their co-founding and leadership teams.

One such unicorn is Canva, co founded by Melanie Perkins who continues to serve as CEO of the Australian-based design tool maker, worth more than US$3 billion.

Then there’s Airwallex, which recently became Australia’s fastest-grown unicorn, and is co founded by Lucy Liu, who continues to serve as the fintech’s president.

Airwallex has also just today announced the appointment of Susan Ho to the team (pictured above), as the first head of SVP Brand, Communications and Partnerships.

It already has a number of women on its leadership team, including CCO and General Counsel Jeanette Chan, VP of partnership and ecosystems Gajia Parsons, head of payments Rose Pang and Director of HR and Recruitment Sascha McPherson.

Image above: Susan Ho, who has just been appointed head of SVP Brand, Communications and Partnerships at Airwallex.

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