INNOVATION

The Barriers Holding Back Women Who Want To Take Their Ideas Global

Teaching women their blind spots could help breach the gap.

22/07/2016 9:12 AM AEST | Updated 22/07/2016 9:14 AM AEST
NEW! HIGHLIGHT AND SHARE
Highlight text to share via Facebook and Twitter
Getty Images/iStockphoto
Women who want to launch their businesses globally are being held back by access to funding.

The prospect of launching your small business overseas might seem like a very daunting one.

But even more so if you are a female entrepreneur, with Australia's International Business Survey 2015 showing that only 12 percent of our internationally operating companies are headed up by women.

Global business leadership specialist, speaker and author Margie Warrell, who was recently appointed ambassador for Australian government initiative Women in Global Business (WIGB), said that while Australian businesswomen are incredibly resourceful and savvy, they were being held back by a lack of access to funding.

The WIGB annual report Women, Global Trade And What It Takes To Succeed 2015, showed that 55 percent of women leading SMEs found accessing finance difficult, with 39 percent of exporters saying they felt their gender made a difference when borrowing. This rises to 52 percent when looking at Australian women who are yet to launch internationally.

Margie Warrell
Global business leadership specialist, speaker and author Margie Warrell was recently appointed ambassador for Women in Global Business.

Only 21 percent of the owner operators surveyed attempted to borrow to fund international expansion, and of these attempts only 27 percent were successful.

But what's behind this denial of funding?

Cynthia Balogh, former WIGB National Program Manager, said one of the reasons women were not given the same access to finance was how female entrepreneurs were perceived and portrayed.

"The faces of women, and especially mature women, are underrepresented in business and business profiles. This underrepresentation reinforces the perception they are playing in the wrong league or, worse yet, don't even belong in the sport," she said in a paper titled Everyone loses: why can't female entrepreneurs secure funding?.

If she communicates and behaves differently and uses different terms and gestures, then that could possibly influence the manager's decision because she behaves outside of the norm and possibly his comfort zone."

She said those perceptions fuelled self-doubt and created a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure.

"The second issue is about decision makers. In the majority of instances, the people who actually make financing decisions are male," she said.

"A businesswoman turns up and makes her case across a desk to a male financier who will be making an important decision on the future of her business. If she communicates and behaves differently and uses different terms and gestures, then that could possibly influence the manager's decision because she behaves outside of the norm and possibly his comfort zone."

The fact that there are fewer women on the boards of venture capitalist firms also contributes to the disparity.

A U.S study called Bridging the Gender Gap in Venture Capital showed that despite women-led, venture-backed U.S companies bringing in 12 percent more revenue than male-led companies, only 2.7 percent of all venture-backed companies have a woman CEO.

Getty Images/Radius Images
Fewer women on the boards of venture capitalist firms has lead to a disparity in the support for women-led businesses.

The gap in the finance market is slowly being recognised, with the introduction of Australian female-focused and led angel investor networks, such as Scale, inspired by the U.S organisation Golden Seeds.

Warrell said financial concerns were often intensified by other barriers including red tape and cultural differences as well as more personal roadblocks such as self-confidence.

"Navigating a bureaucracy and trying to find your way in the business world of another country can be really daunting," she said. "We're trying to shine a light on all the blindspots for women, so they can be as prepared as they can be.

"Women really need the confidence to take the risk; besides the gender gap, there is a gender confidence gap too, and that actually is across all borders and across all different cultures.

"As women, we tend to be a bit more cautious, which is good in the sense that we're not rash and gung-ho, but we tend to overestimate the risks and underestimate ourselves and our ability to handle it."

Busting that stereotype

Australia's female international owner-operators don't fit the stereotype of being young, brash entrepreneurs -- in fact, the majority are well educated baby boomers.

The Women, Global Trade And What It Takes To Succeed 2015 report showed that 62 percent were 50+ years of age, 78 percent held a bachelor degree or higher and 50 percent have previously worked overseas, typically for five or more years.

Mike Kemp
A study had shown that 62 percent of Australia's female international owner-operators were 50+ years of age.

Warrell said one of the most important resources available to women who want to make the move into international markets were those women who have come before them.

"When you've met someone else who has done it before, it seems so much easier, and opens up a rich source of information and really practical tips on how to deal with the bureaucracy of a different market, but you're also learning from other people's mistakes," she said.

Here are Warrell's tips for women entrepreneurs who want to go global.

Plug into networks

"Creating a network of like-minded women, and men, is crucial," Warrell said. "Find people who are ambitious, and aspire to greater things, those who want to challenge the status quo. The conversations we have with these kinds of people really shape our outlook."

Upskill

Warrell said accessing finance and managing finances was also important when expanding overseas.

"Financial literacy skills and basic business management and accounting skills are essential," she said. "If you don't have a business background, how to budget and how to make financially sensible decisions isn't really something you learn traditionally. You need to absorb that from experience, and other people."

Manage expectations

"Not everyone who goes out there will hit the jackpot straight away," she said.

"You have to build self-belief and figure it out; you need to be resilient and courageous."

Don't fear failure

Warrell said the only thing worse than failure was regret.

"Don't let your fear of losing face or falling short keep you from taking the risks -- self-doubt gets in the way of doing the best we can.

"Successful women aren't successful just because they have money or a high IQ -- they're successful because they have tenacity, the will to succeed and aren't afraid to fail.

"They learn from it and move on. There is no greater teacher than experience."

More On This Topic

Advertisement
Advertisement