There’s a lot of advice out there for female entrepreneurs (including in this publication) but here’s one line that should really cut through: “Never forget about the paycheque.”
That one’s from Barb de Corti (pictured above), who told the Australian Financial Review that passion and purpose are great for female entrepreneurs, but money matters too.
She was interviewed as having previously been the highest ranking woman on BRW’s first ever Young Rich List, published back in 2003. Barb is the founder of Enjo Australia, an environmentally friendly cleaning brand.
The AFR makes the point today that just 7% of the 2003 list were female, a rate that’s barely shifted over the last decade and a half – with just nine women in this year’s list of 100.
In 2017, the support and community available for female entrepreneurs and women in business seems stronger than ever before. We’re networking. We’re connecting. We’re marketing. We’re getting coached and mentored. We’re participating in (oftentimes very expensive) courses and programs.
We’re reaching in to the bottomless pit of information, resources and contacts available online and across social media. We’re being constantly inspired and encouraged by the gorgeous lifestyle pics of female entrepreneurs on Instagram. Many of us are also based in Sydney and Melbourne, recently listed by Dell as two of the top 20 cities in the world for female entrepreneurs.
In 2016, Startup Muster found women account for 24% of founders, up from 17% in 2016. Those who declare themselves as “future founders” are 31% female. In 2015, a report by the Office for Women found that 34% of Australian business operators are female.
So women are starting plenty of businesses, and have been for some time.
Yet we’re still not generating anything like the wealth of our male counterparts. Indeed, when it comes to the gender pay gap, there are more dollars a week separating men and women operating businesses than there are men and women who’re employed. A 2015 ABS study based on 2012 data put female business owner earnings at $423 a week, compared with $890 a week for men.
Is it that women don’t care about building hugely profitable businesses?
Are we opting to create products and services that simply can’t scale?
Are we so passionate about our work and businesses that we lose track of setting significant, profitable targets?
Are we opting for more socially-aware and responsible businesses, that in turn don’t generate as much cash?
We’re hardly in a position to not be earning a pay-cheque, given many of us were likely to have under-earned when previously employed compared to our male counterparts, as well as the fact men are retiring with twice the amount of superannuation as women.
When I initially acquired Women’s Agenda 18 months ago, I gave myself six months to earn a salary, a period that happened to coincide with taking leave out from the paid workforce to care for a new baby. Despite having all the passion and purpose in the world, I had no choice but to set the financial deadline – and also appreciate I was very lucky to be in a position to have those six months in the first place. Passion and purpose can help fuel the long and exhausting days, but it can’t pay your rent or mortgage. Nor does it feed a family.
As Barb tells the AFR: “You have to plan for profit, you have to know what the outcome is you are trying to achieve.”
Recently, entrepreneur Melissa Browne put it slightly differently, quoting author Jim Collins in noting that aside from “developing a passion for business” (something women are already great at doing) and “being the best in the world at what you do” (something which requires confidence), female entrepreneurs must also “figure out what drives your economic engine”. That means understanding your numbers and determining where your profit pools are, and then making strategic decisions regarding how you’ll spend your time.
Securing your own economic security should be as much a passion project as the business you’re starting or building.
While female entrepreneurs definitely don’t need to be named on a rich list to prove their success, it would be nice to see us occupying even just 25% of the available positions in the years to come – and eventually 50%.