In three decades, Australia has strived to establish a robust set of conditions for the economic empowerment of women. The Australian government put in place many initiatives pertaining to women and health, education, work, law, education and welfare, thus reducing historic imbalances between men and women. More...
In three decades, Australia has strived to establish a robust set of conditions for the economic empowerment of women. The Australian government put in place many initiatives pertaining to women and health, education, work, law, education and welfare, thus reducing historic imbalances between men and women. Achievements include the creation of women’s health clinics in all the states and territories; establishment of shelters and halfway houses for women escaping domestic violence; the granting of official rights to equal pay to women; and increased availability and provision of paid childcare in the workplace. Australia mandated equality in work through its Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (SDA) and Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act 1999.
Against this backdrop, Australia has become known for its commitment to gender equality. In 2014, the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index, which compares conditions faced by men and women in 142 economies, ranked Australia 14th with respect to women’s economic participation and opportunity (and 24th overall), one of the best showings among APEC economies. In 2011, the labor force participation rate of women (age 20-64) reached 65.3 percent, a 5 percentage point increase from the rate in 2001 alone, and a 12.8 percentage point increase from the 1980 figure.
Despite these strides, Australia still faces some gender barriers. The labor force participation rate for women is still lower than that of men (nearly 80 percent in 2011). Mothers are more likely to work part-time rather than full-time, and the majority of casual workers—56 percent—are women. Women continue to be concentrated in a narrower range of occupations and industries than men. Men continue to dominate the mining industry, for example, while women represent the majority of workers in the retail sector. This occupational and industrial concentration is associated with the persistence of the gender wage gap. The government has sought to address this, through efforts such as the Human Rights Commission’s promotion of a “toolkit of strategies” for stakeholders to help promote women’s participation in male-dominated industries.
Increasingly in Australia, women launch their own businesses. According to a survey of women entrepreneurs by the Australian Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the number of women owning businesses has doubled since 2007, reaching one million in 2012. The survey found that 78 percent of female entrepreneurs had left middle-to-upper-management jobs to start their own business. Just over 40 percent of those started their business with less than AUS$5,000 (US$3,800), and 27 percent of those now generate more than AUS$250,000 (US$193,000) in annual revenue. The majority of these businesses are in service industries.
Australia provides a variety of best practices pertaining to the development of female entrepreneurs. The examples in this section broadly highlight the economy’s spectrum of business networks, private-sector initiatives, and government services.
The proportion of Australian women who have come into their own as business owners has increased since the turn of the millennium. These women have benefited from the diversity of business networks that promote female entrepreneurship. The networks described below offer programs and services that address barriers that female business owners, existing and potential, face across many different locals and industries.
Networks that support women’s access to capital and assets:
Networks that support women’s access to markets:
Networks that support strengthened capacity and skills for women in business:
Networks that support women’s leadership, voice and agency:
Networks that support women and innovation and technology:
Private Sector Initiatives.
Initiatives that support women’s access to capital and assets:
Initiatives that support women’s access to markets:
Initiatives that support strengthened capacity and skills for women in business:
Initiatives that support women’s leadership, voice and agency:
Initiatives that support women and innovation and technology:
The Australian government supports women’s entrepreneurship, particularly in recent years, through policies and programs in national, state and territorial governments. The Australian Government Office for Women and the Australian Trade Commission (Austrade) have proven helpful to women in delivering training, consulting services, and mentorship programs; providing opportunities to attend trade fairs abroad; providing introductions to potential suppliers; and fostering partnerships in the banking and finance sectors as well as other public and private sector agencies.