Did you know that every third business you encounter is owned by a woman? Yes, one in three Australian businesses is operated by a woman and they are twice as likely as a man to start their own business. Owning a business is seen by many women as a way of achieving their financial goals whilst simultaneously having the flexibility of how those goals are achieved – nearly half of the 668,000 female business owners in Australia have dependent children.
At the vanguard of this female entrepreneur trend are the young; women under 20 are equally likely as their male counterparts to start their own business whereas, by the thirties or forties, only one in three women will do so. This sounds great however, female entrepreneurs are only 13% of all the women working so, there is room for more women to embrace autonomy and authority.
The most likely area for women to enter business is the allied health and beauty industries. This equates to jobs like hairdresser, beauty therapist, counsellor, massage therapist, child care provider and the like. This tendency comes as no surprise – the idea that women prefer to enter professions that involve close personal contact and care is in line with the cultural expectations of women as well as their natural inclinations. If you combine the increasing likelihood of women to start their own business with their preference for ‘caregiving’ professions, you have a huge army contributing to a more civilised, socially responsible, and egalitarian world.
Although being a woman in business has it’s downsides (on average they earn half as much as the average employed women), female business operators consistently report higher levels of satisfaction than their employed sisters. (HILDA Survey 2001-2011). This suggests that women in business need to take the ‘business’ part of their aspirations more seriously which starts during the planning stage which should put emphasis on time management, personal initiative, computer literacy, and financial skills.
You’ll be pleased to know that Australia ranks second highest in the world after the USA (of course) in providing a supportive environment for women starting a business; we enjoy equal rights and leadership from other women that many other countries do not benefit from. In many places just being a woman is a major legal, financial and safety disadvantage. We also have more women than men entering and graduating from tertiary study so the future looks good for women to be educated for success.
As previously mentioned, the hair and beauty industry is the number one choice for most young women (we are a wonderfully vain crowd aren’t we) and a leader in that realm is Stephanie of “Stephanie’s Spa Retreat” in Brisbane. This entrepreneurial women has built a mini-empire of four salon spas in Brisbane City, the suburbs and a Sunshine Coast location. In 2016 Stephanie’s Spa Retreat won three awards at the International Luxury Awards in the spa category – pretty impressive for little ol’ Brisbane. Stephanie does her bit in making the world a better place by providing employment to her staff, contributing to the economy and delighting her customers. I admire Stephanie for not stopping at one location, for becoming a creator of a significant business rather than just working in her business as a therapist – that takes some vision, business skills and confidence.
The next most popular choice for us caring types is allied health specialisations like naturopathy and massage therapy. Government statistics show that there are around 11,000 massage therapists in Australia, many of whom work part-time (remember women want a flexible working lifestyle). This seems like a lot but 5,000-10,000 more jobs in the field are expected to open up by 2018. There are various specialisations in massage therapy and oncology massage is a very emotional and rewarding one according to Asako Ford who founded “Padma Remedial,” a massage clinic in Sydney. Sometimes referred to as cancer massage (rather indelicately I think), the therapist aims to provide both physical and emotional relaxation and comfort to those in dire need of it. Asako used to be a personal assistant but after graduating with a Diploma in Massage has built a small and meaningful business making the world a little better for a special group of clients.
Staying in the field of allied health, community services and counselling is another popular choice for women who feel they have something to contribute. When I was given a personal growth book 25 years ago it changed my view of life profoundly and prompted me to study psychology. After graduating, I worked for Queensland Corrective Services Commission as a probation and parole officer. The first day on the job I found myself in front of a magistrate pleading on behalf of an accused boy to be given probation rather than a prison sentence – I was successful as I recall.
A year later I established my private practice in the western suburbs of Brisbane helping (mostly) women through divorce and establishing new relationships. After 20 years I have spent thousands of hours helping people explore the roots of their struggles, understand their dysfunctional patterns, and establish new relationships with themselves and others. I am proud to have supported men and women who were abused as children to escape the mire of their early experiences and elevate themselves to self-respect, self-love and joy. It has been a massive privilege that has also served my own journey. I have sometimes received precious letters and cards from clients expressing their gratitude for my care and patience; I know I have made a real difference to the lives of a few special people on the planet.
The number of women is business is rising year by year; I hope you’ll join me and thousands of other women and take seriously the opportunity we have to develop ourselves and contribute to the ever-weaving fabric of human life. We are what makes a difference and, with just a little determination and vision, we can matter more than we could ever have imagined.