For these Queensland entrepreneurs, gender equality is not a women’s issue – it’s a business issue.
As we prepare to celebrate International Women’s Day this Sunday March 8, it is important to recognise that gender equality is essential for economies and communities to thrive.
As world-renowned feminist Gloria Steinem once said, “The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist, nor to any one organisation, but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights”.
That’s why this year’s IWD theme is #EachforEqual. It’s a reminder that we can all make a positive difference, and a rallying cry for each of us to play a part in establishing a gender-equal world.
We’ve been showcasing prominent Queensland women in business across our social media channels all this week – and this is what #EachforEqual means to each of them.
Leanne Kemp, CEO and Founder, Everledger | Queensland Chief Entrepreneur
We cannot be what we cannot see – the great visibility women have in traditionally male-dominated industries is important in empowering the next generation.
Tech can lead the way. There is nothing inherently masculine about blockchain, AI, machine learning or any tech, really. Computers are androgynous by nature. That said, it’s fair to say the tech sector remains heavily dominated by men. One challenge is women’s under-representation in emerging roles, so unless we can balance the ledger by making roles attractive to women, we risk missing out on the full potential to transform. Research shows that companies with an inclusive culture are also more likely to be innovative, and we need innovation now more than ever.
The evidence is now overwhelming that diversity in leadership is good for business. For example, a Harvard Business School report on the male-dominated venture capital industry found that “the more similar the investment partners, the lower their investments’ performance”. In fact, firms that increased their proportion of female partner hires by 10% saw, on average, a 1.5% spike in overall fund returns each year and had 9.7% more profitable exits. It’s simply not good business sense to limit or control how women participate in the modern workforce.
Having more women in visible positions in business is essential in empowering the next generation.
Read more of Leanne’s thoughts on Women in Leadership for the World Economic Forum.
Anne-Marie Birkill, Partner and Director, OneVentures
International Women’s Day is one of my favourite days of the entire year! It is a day when I feel grateful to the amazing women who have made great sacrifices to improve gender equity, and a day when I reaffirm my commitment to continue their good work.
I pledge to do all I can to ensure that the participation of women in the venture capital industry improves – including by continuing the commitment within our own firm to recruiting and promoting women in our investment team, calling out meetings and panels with few or no women represented, and acting as a positive role model and mentor for other women.
I will also be courageous in calling out casual, demeaning and sexist language and behaviours, knowing that tolerance of these things desensitises some to discriminatory and violent acts against women.
Johanna Kloot, CEO, GreenKPI
I pay my respects to the women who fought for my rights in a world of inequality, and say thanks by forging ahead as a woman thriving in the freedom they won.
Today, women follow their dreams and often work hard to lift all people up, as women tend to, even though the tide still runs against us.
Tomorrow, I see equality in business and government with balanced policies working for a sustainable future where #EachforEqual is embedded in our collective cultures.
Nicola Angel, Head of Laboratory Operations, Microba
Gender equality is still a serious issue in Australian society. Whilst we have made many advances in this area compared to other countries, there is more work to be done.
To achieve equality, we need strong female role models who lead by example and are involved in education in any capacity to guide and empower the next generation of women who come behind us.
International Women’s Day is an opportunity for us to pause and focus on how far we have come, and also how far we need to go in creating the capacity to have more women at the table, innovating and leading.
I am often asked, ‘Why do we have to single out women-specific events?’ My typical response is that, until balance is restored, this will be a showcase of empowerment. Until all women are able to pursue their dreams without the barriers of bias, we will celebrate women’s business. We all came from mothers; we all have sisters, aunts and nieces; so we should all be united in celebrating just how much is done for us by women.
We can lead with a pragmatic, yet firm, stance on gender equality by providing the tools, the stage and the power to lead from the front. We will not accept inequality, and we will take action, even at times when we feel like an imposter or our confidence is just not there.
Sometimes we believe those around us before we believe ourselves, so having a supportive tribe around you is critical. This applies in our professional roles and our personal lives. Businesses can lead in the same way, by educating people that unconscious bias exists and raising awareness that there is a problem.
It is only that awareness that will allow for acceptance and change.
Sam Jockel, CEO and Founder, ParentTV
To be honest, my gender has never really been something I have thought much about in the last 10 years of my business journey.
I am grateful, however, to those who have gone before me, and led the way for founders like me to be able to get on with the job of building a great company without much thought of gender.
Together, we are stronger – that, I know.
Jocie Bate, Co-Founder and CEO, SwarmFarm Robotics
Nobody talks about entrepreneurship as survival, but that’s exactly what it is and what nurtures creative thinking.
When you feel true passion about something, you instinctively find ways to overcome the challenges. I believe the challenge isn’t equality per se, it’s in creating the support to reduce the barriers for women entrepreneurs.
Delvene Cockatoo-Collins, Artist and Owner, Minjerribah Art Studio | Delvene Cockatoo-Collins Art
Every day I come to work, I continue to challenge the perception of what it means to be an Aboriginal female business owner. What started as a dream is now my reality.
What my grandmother and mother did for me, I hope to do for the next generation.
Lesly Van Staveren, Co-Founding Director, ReGen Plastics
Equality is a necessity in today’s world and today’s business place. We need to work towards a point of balance where individuals are recognised for their skill and ability, not their gender. I feel one really important aspect of who we are at ReGen Plastics is that we are co-founded by a husband and wife – we respect and appreciate each other’s strengths and have an equal partnership. This has allowed the business to flourish and move forward in the way it has.
Within our business, we respect the person for who they are, their ability and their desire to be a part of something bigger. By embracing full equality and inclusion, there is more opportunity for utilising the full workforce and investing in your most valuable asset – people. Talent, skill, initiative and creativity are not gender specific, so why should your business place or our communities be?
Equality is a priority for men and women to be on a level playing field and respecting each other for their own unique skill sets. To work in full collaboration and play to the individual’s strengths will bring about so much more opportunity for innovation and positive outcomes based on the bigger picture.
As well as gender equality, the support women can invest in each other is phenomenal. We have a gift for connection, understanding and being able to form strong foundations to enable each other to grow, learn and thrive.
Champion your sisters – in life and in business.