Seizing the start up moment for women | Women's Agenda

Seizing the start up moment for women

from left to right: Dr Catherine Ball, Marita Cheng, Jane Lu, Tania Walter, Leigh Angus and Leeanne. The young women in red t-shirts are from, Australia’s first student run media company based in Brisbane.

Earlier this month, the Queensland Palaszczuk Government hosted the Advance Queensland Innovation and Investment Summit at Brisbane’s Royal International Convention Centre.

Over two days our government presented a showcase of entrepreneurial superstars – Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak beamed in via satellite, alongside Queensland innovation rock stars like Shark Tank’s Steve Baxter and Domino’s Don Meij who enraptured the auditorium – along with 3000 viewers on the Summit’s livestream.

In an Inspired Entrepreneurship panel Dr Nina Tandon of Epibone, from New York talked about regenerating bones from human cells. Everledger businesswoman Leanne Kemp got a rousing response from the crowd when she announced she was a proud entrepreneur and Queenslander. (Go the Maroons!). Meanwhile Adam Spencer and Bernie Hobbs from ABC Science were unflagging hosts.

It would be unfair to play favourites but I must say, the Female Fantastic panel was outstanding. The moderator was Leigh Angus, a local innovator and connector. Sitting next to her was South African-born Tania Walter, founder and CEO of Obzevr – a reporting platform for in-the-field workers. Next to her was the very funny Jane Lu of online retailer ShowPo (she dressed in her office clothes every day for six months rather than tell her parents she was out of work). There was also Young Australian of the Year, Marita Cheng. Her non-profit Robogals has taught 50,000 girls robotics in nine countries. She also runs 2Mar Robotics that creates robotic arms for people with limited mobility, and she has a vision through artificial intelligence project. At the end of the panel was Dr Catherine Ball. She says Far North Queensland is her favourite part of the world and has plans to use drones for humanity.

To say these women were inspiring is an understatement. The room crackled with laughter, ambition and camaraderie. 

The Female Fantastic session brought to life the Palaszczuk Government’s vision for the #StartUpState. Advance Queensland is a movement. These women are our pop idols. In my electorate of Algester (and all over Queensland), I want young girls to look up to these tech entrepreneurs. These women are writing code, they’re making deals, they’re confident and inclusive. An hour in their company will give you inspiration for days.

The push for more women in STEM started yesterday because we need women in STEM today. The only way we will have equal numbers of women in technology-focussed entrepreneurship is if we enrol young girls, in greater numbers, in STEM courses. We cannot leave women behind in the new digital economy. Advance Queensland is about betting on the future and closing the gender gap.

As a Quandamooka woman, my heart’s desire is to see young Indigenous Australians excel in the fields of technology and entrepreneurship. I want to see digital products made in Queensland by our young people.

So what can we do? The Palaszczuk Government has a $180-million dollar plan for working smarter and working together. The Advance Queensland Innovation and Investment Summit was policy IRL. Two weeks earlier we awarded $10 million to Advance Queensland research scholarships. We now have a startup precinct in Fortitude Valley with tenants like River City Labs and Data 61. We have an opportunity to build an economy based on high-growth, knowledge-intensive businesses that compete globally.


Let’s do it now, let’s support women entrepreneurs and let’s get the word out. Over the Summit we Tweeted, Snapped, Pinned and Facebooked the Advance Queensland Summit. I’m still catching up on Advance Queensland YouTube clips. I’m excited to champion a new wave of diverse, funny, fiery females; writing code and taking names.

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