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TitleProfile of Australian Women in Business
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Total Pages102
Table of Contents
Data sources
	Reference date of data source
	Longitudinal Census data
	Date not mentioned in paragraph
	Previously published and unpublished data
	Differing age ranges
Data definitions
	Who is a business operator?
	Age of business operators
	Main job
	Availability of business operator data
Chapter 1 - Background
	Australian women in the workforce
	Becoming more educated but still a participation gap
	Australian women in business
	Looking forward
	End Notes
Chapter 2: Personal characteristics
	Key findings
		How many Australian women are business operators?
		As a proportion of all business operators
		As a proportion of employed women
		International data on OMUEs as a proportion of employed women
		One job or two?
		More than one job in the last year
		Groups of interest
		For young and old, but mostly in the middle
		Gender divide by age
		Education characteristics
		Varied earnings
		Homes and mortgages
		Where do Australia's women business operators live?
		Socio-economic index
		Volunteering and involvement in groups
		Overall life satisfaction
	End Notes
Chapter 3: Family characteristics
	Key findings
		Family types
		Marital status
		Employment status of household
		Women breadwinners
		Use of childcare
		Transitions - what happened when women business operators had children?
		Other caring responsibilities
	End Notes
Chapter 4: Business characteristics
	Key findings
		Employment type
		Independent contractors
		Length of time in business
		Size of business (number of employees)
		Business value
		Startups and finance
		International businesses
		Employment transitions
		Staying in business
		Retirement intentions
		Workplace injury or illness
	End Notes
Chapter 5 - Working arrangements
	Key findings
		Full-time/part-time status
		Hours worked
		Satisfaction with hours worked
		Night-owls and weekenders
		Days worked
		Working from home
		Working from home: hours usually worked
	End Notes
Chapter 6 - Challenges, considerations and incentives
	Key findings
		Commitments outside work
		Family responsibilities
		Cost of childcare
		Difficulty combining caring and business
		Unpaid domestic work
		Time pressures and spare time (or lack of it)
		Other challenges
		Financial barriers for women business operators
		Income protection for older workers
		Challenges and considerations for jobseekers
		Supporting women
Chapter 7 - Groups of interest
	Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women who own and manage businesses
	Migrant women who own and manage businesses
	Women with a core activity need for assistance who own and manage businesses
	Women who own and manage businesses in remote areas of Australia
	Older women (aged 55 years and over) who own and manage businesses
	Australian women who own and manage businesses and have dependent children
Chapter 8 - Data development
	Business surveys
	Household Surveys
	Future data development
	Further development opportunities
Chapter 9 - Reference material
	Data sources used in this report
		ABS data sources
		International context
Document Text Contents
Page 1

A Profile of


Report prepared by the


for the OFFICE FOR WOMEN, 2015

© Commonwealth of Australia 2015

978-1-925237-81-8 A Profile of Australian Women in Business (DOCX)

Copyright Notice

With the exception of the Commonwealth Coat of Arms, this work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Australia licence (CC BY 3.0)(

Page 2

Profile of Australian Women in Business


Australian women are increasingly becoming business operators, perhaps to improve their family's
social and economic wellbeing, remain attached to the labour force and better manage their work-life
balance. Just over a third of Australia’s business operators are women (34%), and their numbers are

This report provides a profile of Australian women business operators, to enable a better
understanding of the changing role of this pathway of employment for women. A wide range of data
has been gathered together for the first time to present a national picture of their personal, family,
business and employment characteristics.

The report shows the ways in which women who run their own businesses differ from male business
operators, and from female and male employees. It examines the reasons women establish their own
businesses, and notes some of the barriers to women’s employment in general and starting a
business in particular.

Recognising interest in particular groups of women business operators, the report also provides key
characteristics of the following groups: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, migrant women,
women in remote Australia, women with a disability, older women and women with dependent

In the broader context of women’s workforce participation, this wide-ranging and detailed collection of
data adds depth and breadth to the existing literature on women’s self-employment in Australia.
Together with an extensive literature review, and a discussion of data gaps and options for
addressing those gaps, this report provides a comprehensive resource for policy makers and


Guide for reading this report: key data sources and definitions
Chapter 1 - Background
Chapter 2 - Personal characteristics
Chapter 3 - Family characteristics
Chapter 4 - Business characteristics
Chapter 5 - Working arrangements
Chapter 6 - Challenges, considerations and incentives
Chapter 7 - Groups of interest
Chapter 8 - Data development
Chapter 9 - Reference material

Page 51

Source: ABS Time Use Survey, 2006

(It's not all work and no play...)

In 2006, in addition to domestic work, and the time spent on childcare, women employers and sole
operators still managed to spend roughly 14% of their day on recreation and leisure activities.

Other challenges

Australia has made good progress towards achieving gender equality in recent times.
However, women still experience inequality and discrimination in many important parts of
their lives. At work, women continue to face a gender ‘pay gap’ and barriers to leadership

roles. Many encounter reduced employment opportunities because of the time they give to
family and caring responsibilities.15


The 2011 Pregnancy and Employment Transitions Survey (PaETS) collected data on perceived
discrimination due to pregnancy. This survey found that around one in five (22%) mothers who were
employees who worked in their job while pregnant felt that they had experienced some type of
discrimination in their workplace during their pregnancy.

Most (91%) felt that this was a direct result of their pregnancy. The most common types of
discrimination were receiving inappropriate or negative comments from a manager/supervisor or
colleague (37%), and missing out on opportunities for promotion (34%) or training or development
opportunities (32%).16

The Australian Human Rights Commission has conducted similar surveys. Their 2014 report found
that one in two (49%) mothers reported experiencing discrimination at some point during pregnancy,
parental leave or on return to work, and just under one in five (18%) lost their jobs or had their jobs
restructured because of their pregnancy, their request for taking parental leave, or their caring
responsibilities on return to work.17

The necessity for some women to withdraw from the workplace or reduce their hours because of their
caring commitments may contribute to the persistence of gender pay differences, and to women
having difficulty climbing the career ladder.18

Family commitments aside, the 2013 WIGB report found that Australian businesswomen were not
'typically encountering or being held back by commonly held ideas of gender barriers'. The survey
found a lack of acceptance of women in business dealings and a lack of female role models were
consistently in the bottom six barriers reported, with the high dollar (at the time of the survey) being
the most common.10

Financial barriers for women business operators

Financial constraints feature in women's reporting of barriers, but data from non-business surveys in
this area is scarce. In July 2013, lack of finance was the main reason most women gave for not
starting a business when they had been considering doing so (58%, compared with 56% of men).

In 2010, 9% of women business operators reported that government support had been their main
source of income sometime in the past two years, suggesting that access to capital may be more
difficult for almost one in ten women operating businesses.

The WIGB survey showed that resource issues were the barriers most noted by women business
operators, especially the high costs of establishment (with 32% finding this hindered their business),
lack of alternative sources of capital (29%), and the reluctance of banks and financial institutions to
fund expansion (22%).10

Page 52

International data shows differences in finance use between businesses owned by women and those
owned by men. A 2010 report for the White House Council on Women and Girls found that women
start with less capital than men but were more likely than men to indicate they do not need financing
to start their business. They also found women were less likely than men to take on more debt to
expand their businesses.19 A 2009 study of American businesses by the Kauffman Foundation found
that after controlling for the amount of startup capital, women-owned businesses still underperformed
those owned by men.20

However, in Australia, a 2003 study using ABS Business Longitudinal Survey data from 1995-96 to
1997-98 (when owner gender was collected) found no significant differences in financial performance
and business growth between Australian women's and men's businesses.21 In 2013, women were just
as likely as men to have multiple contracts on the go (see Chapter 5).

In 2012, a national research project commissioned by the AWCCI found that less than 20% of
Australian women business owners were tendering for local, State and Federal Government contracts
around Australia, but of those that tendered, 60% were successful.22

Income protec tion for older workers

Another possible financial barrier for self-employed older people in particular is that with no particular
retirement age, they may have difficulty obtaining income protection or workers compensation. Most
of Australia’s workers compensation schemes contain an age limit of between 60 and 65 years, after
which workers are no longer covered for income replacement, accident or illness, (although by 2012
some insurers and superannuation funds had lifted their age limits for income replacement insurance
to between 67 and 70 years).23

Risk tolerance

HILDA data shows that women 'tend to be considerably more risk averse' than men, with 59%
unprepared to take any financial risk, compared with 45% of men.24 Women business operators were
a little more risk averse than their male counterparts, but they were twice as likely to take risks as
women employees: 16% of women business operators were prepared to take substantial or above
average risks with their spare cash, compared with 20% of men who operate businesses, and 8% of
women employees.14

Challenges and considerations for jobseekers

Looking for work

The need to balance caring commitments is reflected in the employment arrangements that women
jobseekers see as important: in 2012-13, 53% of women aged 18 years and over who were
unemployed said that being able to work a set number of hours on set days was very important in
their search for possible work.

For almost two in five women who were not in the labour force (38%), being able to work part-time
was seen as a very important incentive to join the labour force, along with the ability to work a set
number of hours on set days (36%), and work during school hours (28%).

Caring commitments were also a consideration for employed women looking for more work. Over half
of women employed part-time with children under 13 said that the availability of childcare places and
financial assistance with childcare costs were very important when looking for more hours.25

However, they were not the only challenges experienced by women looking for work. In July 2013,
one in five unemployed women reported a lack of skills or work experience (20%) as the main reason
they were unable to get a job, compared with 14% of men. Around 17% said there were too many
applicants for existing jobs, while just over 10% said they had difficulty finding work because of
childcare or other family responsibilities, or the jobs had unsuitable hours.

Page 101

become relationally recognized through reciprocal role adoption and collectively endorsed
within the organizational context.

40. Terjesen, S 2006, Gender in Management and Entrepreneurship: Four Recent Texts,

Management Revue, vol. 17, no. 2, viewed 9 December 2014,
<>. This article reviews four books: Bruni, A,
Gherardi, S & Poggio, B 2005, Gender and Entrepreneurship: An Ethnographical Approach,
4th edition, Routledge: London. ISBN 0-415-35228-2, 231 pages; Hauge, ES & Havnes, P-A
2005, Women Entrepreneurs: Theory, Research & Policy Implications, Hoyskoleforlaget:
Kristiansand, ISBN 82-7634-667-7, 175 pages; Fielden, SL & Davidson, MJ (eds) 2005,
International Handbook of Women and Small Business Entrepreneurship, Edward Elgar,
Cheltenham, ISBN 1-84376-012-6, 282 pages; and Pilcher, J & Whelehan, I 2005, 50 Key
Concepts in Gender Studies, 2nd edition, Sage: London, ISBN 0-7619-7036-3, 193 pages.

41. UN Women, Women's Empowerment Principles, UN Women, last viewed 22 Jan 2015.

empowerment-principles>. The Women’s Empowerment Principles offer practical guidance to
business and the private sector on how to empower women in the workplace, marketplace
and community. Developed through a partnership between UN Women and the United
Nations Global Compact, the Principles are designed to support companies in reviewing
existing policies and practices, or establishing new ones, to realise women’s empowerment.

42. United States Census Bureau, 2010, Census Bureau Reports Women-Owned Firms

Numbered 7.8 Million in 2007, Generated Receipts of $1.2 Trillion, Media release, 7
December 2010, United States Census Bureau, viewed 13 May 2014,
The 2007 Survey of Business Owners highlighted the role of women as business owners,
creating revenue and employment. Around 88% of women-owned businesses were non-
employer businesses, while less than 1% of women-owned business employed more than
100 people (yet accounted for 36% of women-owned business receipts). The Survey of
Business Owners defined women-owned businesses as ‘firms in which women own 51
percent or more of the equity, interest, or stock of the business’.

43. US Department of Commerce Economics and Statistics Administration 2010, Women-owned

businesses in the 21st century, viewed 14 May 2014,
businesses.pdf>. This report was produced for the White House Council on Women and Girls
and discussed changes in women-owned businesses, the characteristics of women business
owners and potential reasons for disparities when compared to men. Highlighted were: the
rate of growth in women-owned business especially health care and education; being older;
married; and less likely to have children at home. These women typically worked less hours
per week and earned 55% of the annual earnings of men.

44. Williams, DR 2004, Effects of Childcare Activities on the Duration of Self-Employment in

Europe, Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, vol. 28, no. 5, pp. 467–485.
_Duration_of_SelfEmployment_in_Europe%2A>. Using data from the European Community
Household Panel survey for 1994–1999, this study estimates the effect of time spent caring
for children on the duration of self-employment, controlling for other factors that affect self-
employment success rates. The study found that caring for children significantly reduces the
duration of self-employment ventures, for both males and females, and in most countries
studied. The results suggest that policy makers need to consider child care policies in
conjunction with self-employment policies.

45. Women Matter, 2012, Women Matter 2012: Making the Breakthrough, McKinsey & Company

report, March 2012, <>. This
report examines the gender-diversity programs of 235 large European companies, and
investigates what initiatives companies are taking, what is working well or less well, and why.

Page 102

46. Womenable 2013, The 2013 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report: A Summary of
Important Trends, 1997–2013, Womenable, US, viewed 18.12.2014,
StateOfWomenReport_FINAL.pdf>. This report provides the third annual investigation into the
state of women-owned businesses in the US. Two of the key findings were that women-
owned businesses grew at one and a half times the national average between 1997 and 2013
and that one in three of these businesses are owned by women of colour. The report also
notes that women-owned firms are starting and growing businesses in all industries,
diversifying into sectors previously described as “non-traditional” for women; and discuss the
point at which entrepreneurs make the transition from “jack of all trades” to CEO—hiring
senior managers, delegating day-to-day responsibilities, and building management systems –
which they claim are when businesses reach the 5-9 employee and $250,000–499,999
revenue marks. The report notes this is a point in a firm’s growth journey at which women
business owners would benefit from education, mentoring and peer support.


A google search of 'Australian business women network' brings up 45 network organisations for
Australian businesswomen in the first few pages, and that's not counting organisations with names
that would not come up using those specific search terms.

Entities such as the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA), the Human Rights Commission,
Australian Businesswomen's Network (ABN), Women in Global Business (WIGB), the Australian
Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry (AWCCI), SheBusiness, Business Chicks, Australian
Women's Network, BoardLinks network, the AppointWomen register, the ASX 200 Chairmen’s
Mentoring Program and BPW Australia (Australian Federation of Business and Professional Women)
to name a very few, recognise, promote and facilitate women's business activity and access to

The internet teems with informal support groups, blogs, advice columns and discussion forums that
encourage and endorse women's ambition and enterprise. There are also a wide range of networking
sites available for both men and women.

A number of gender based business reports can be found at
<>, while a range of statistics for women in business
can be found at the Business Coaching and Mentoring Blog
statistics/ >.

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