Forty percent of Australian girls who participated in a series of recent workshops could not name a female entrepreneur or businessperson. Of the girls who could, twenty-six percent named Kylie Jenner or another Kardashian.
STEM jobs in Australia are growing at 1.5 times the rate of other jobs, while entrepreneurship and innovation are considered essential future workforce skills.
Considering these facts, it’s alarming that twenty-three percent of Australian girls don’t know what an entrepreneur is and that boys continue to outnumber girls 3 to 1 in physics classes. In advanced mathematics, girls are outnumbered 2 to 1.
Representatives from major international tech companies, Australian corporates, start-ups, incubators and the entrepreneurial community are gathering in Sydney today to discuss how more girls can be supported to become tomorrow’s entrepreneurs.
The Future Female Entrepreneurs Program aims to build an industry alliance to assist girls and young women in Australia to develop entrepreneurship and STEM-based skills essential to the future of work. The upcoming program is funded by an Australian Government grant, with matched funding to be secured for industry partners.
“We want Australian girls to have the confidence that they can be the boss of their own company or leaders in the industries in which they work,” program spokesperson Annie O’Rourke said. “Role models make a huge impact on young people.
They’ve just completed a series of workshops with almost 200 girls aged 10 to 18 in Darwin, Newcastle, Sydney, Melbourne and the Gold Coast, along with consultations with a number of education experts.
“In our recent workshops with girls we found 40 per cent couldn’t name a female entrepreneur. You can’t be what you can’t see, so that’s why we’ll be connecting girls with real life role models to show them what is possible.”
“There are so many great examples of women making an impact in business and innovation, and we want to help girls look beyond the Jenners and Kardashians and learn from some of our home-grown success stories.”
Girls report the biggest barriers to pursuing entrepreneurship were a lack of access to education and mentors (27 percent), lack of confidence (24 percent) and lack of female business role models (12 percent).
In the current workplace, women make up only 17 per cent of the STEM-qualified workforce in Australia. There is an urgent need to address this divide.
“The Government’s $3.6 million Future Female Entrepreneurs Program
creates a digital platform to boost digital skills, provide in-person training to boost digital literacy, and provide mentorship to our businesswomen of the future,” Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said.
“The Government wants to encourage more women to engage in entrepreneurship in the technology sector, which will help grow our economy.”
COSBOA is leading the Future Female Entrepreneurs Program on behalf of the small business sector, as a critical measure to boost women’s leadership and participation in small business.
“Today’s 12-year-old girls will be the entrepreneurs and innovation workers of 2025. We must take action now to show Australian girls that anything is possible with the right skills, attitude and support,” COSBOA CEO Peter Strong said.
The program will be launched in coming months and is targeted towards girls in late primary and high school. The program is designed to cultivate their skills in design thinking, coding and business skills via self-paced online learning, or as part of a national in-person workshop program.