To mark International Women's Day 2019, Claire Braund, founder and director of Women on Boards, said that with NSW and federal elections on the horizon, it was critical that governments came to grips with the notion of "financial gender balance" if the Australian economy and society were to prosper.
Braund said the 40:40:20 metric WOB had long-been advocating — 40% men and women (and 20% of either and/or other genders)in the boardroom, in political & business leadership, at management level and within the community — was even more relevant to address the "financial gender imbalance" in Australia.
“It has been proven over and again that gender balanced leadership leads to better decisions and more equitable outcomes for everyone,” she said.
“At the top level it’s about enshrining the 40% principle — one which sees at least 40% of the financial assets in this nation being owned or controlled by women — if we are to avoid the perfect storm of more women living longer, retiring on less and relying on taxpayer funded welfare.”
Braund said this did not mean social engineering, but considering the impact of all policies and decisions on women. She said a good example was ensuring that a gender-balanced workforce and reduction in the gender pay gap were two of the decision-making factors in the procurement of goods and services.
“Another area that needs attention is funding measures that improve the long-term economic empowerment of women, such as the opportunities presented by the start-ups and early stage innovation companies.
“It is a well-known fact that just 2.2% of venture capital goes to female-founded start-ups, despite much evidence that women have the potential to demonstrate impressive returns from less initial capital.”
Braund cited a report by Boston Consulting Group and start-up accelerator network MassChallenge in 2018 that explained women were more likely to have their basic technical knowledge questioned when pitching for VC funding and often had to prove their credentials or skills before they could start promoting their ideas.
Anecdotal evidence also suggests that many funders will not back a company without at least one "tech partner" and often go through aggressive "shark-tank style" pitch rounds which do not play well with women.
“There is also a strong focus on VC funding, innovation hubs and accelerators — many of which are male dominated and invest in male-led start-ups — rather than angel investing which is focused on helping start-ups take their first steps, rather than the possible profit they may get from the business,” Braund said.
According to her, applying the 40% principle to government and private sector funding of entrepreneurs would be a great way realise the potential of the start-up sector for women.
She said WOB was calling for a pre-election commitment from all parties to close the gender-pay and gender-investment gap by:
- Reinstating the ABS Time Use survey to determine how men and women spend their time.
- Funding increased WGEA reporting on employer data on the gender pay gap.
- Determining a set of gender-based metrics (including gender pay gap data) against which government procurement is assessed and public funding is allocated.
- Directing 40% of funding for the start-up/innovation sector to female founded ventures or programs that support female founders and women.
- Supporting angel investment and female angel investor networks, such as Scale Investors and Heed over Heels.
- Investigating options for start-ups and ESICs to access gender and skills balanced advisory boards as a component of securing government investment.