Fast-forward 20 years and she’s struggling to see much of a difference.
“I don’t know if much has changed other than I, like many women, have just had to make it work,” the CEO of the female-focused angel investor network tells Women’s Agenda.
“I feel like myself, and many women I speak to, are constantly fighting an uphill battle of getting into competing roles.
“I don’t want to be biased and say men don’t also get this challenge, but I really notice it among well educated women who are still struck by this pressure to find balance between being the primary carer and having a career they want.
“There has got to be a better way for mothers to be caregivers and also contribute to the Australian economy.”
Barker believes this is why the start-up sector is thriving with female entrepreneurs.
But women running startups still face plenty of challenges.
Earlier this year, a new report revealed that female-founded start-ups raise less than half the venture capital funding of those founded by men, but generate more than twice the revenue.
Despite this, gains are being made. Since 2013, Scale has leveraged nearly $7 million of private sector money into the female-start-up sector for 13 start-ups. Scale is also backed by the Victorian Government.
“People are recognising that women are underemployed and that the start-up sector is a great way for women to get back into work. Also that the economy thrives when we have full diversity and full employment,” says Barker.
Barker adds this is especially important, given her belief that Australia is so far behind in terms of the support provided to working mothers around childcare, as well as the social and business stigma that still exists around who should do what at home.
“I’m a migrant and when I got here I was gobsmacked by the amount of tenacity, resilience and the ability of people to just get up and give it a go,” she says. “Nobody really prejudices you around where you are from but there is a stigma around women being caregivers and not necessarily being wage earners.”
Scale Investors is in talks with a number of companies at the moment, including Enrol Now which is co-founded by former airline industry executive Amanda Read and former venue manager Tania Gray. They developed the business by leveraging insights on maximising seat occupancy from the airline industry and applying it to help child-care centres with waiting list placements.
“I love seeing women come up with innovative ideas that help the whole family, I think it is really fantastic.”
In October, Scale Investors will launch a digital education program that will provide both first time and continuing angel investors the opportunity to learn from some of Australia’s most experienced and successful early stage investors. It will cover everything from sourcing deal flow through to navigating a successful start-up investment exit.