More than 50 percent of female business owners are unable to pay themselves a wage after they start up, according to new research.
In addressing the issue, the Australian Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry (AWCCI) is calling for a mandate to ensure female business owners have access to government contracts in order to allow them to contribute to the economy.
AWCCI CEO, Yolanda Vega says governments must use their purchasing power to support the one million women business owners, many of whom are corporate refugees.
“They don’t have access to markets, they can’t access capital and they don’t have access to government contracts,” she said.
Vega says that there is no data available in Australia to determine what percentage of federal, state or local government contracts have been obtained by female business owners.
“We know that this information is crucial to economic growth and when collected, it will help measure the growth and worth of SMEs,” she said.
APEC data found rising economic participation correlates with significant growth as women are more likely to invest in improving health, education and infrastructure.
The World Bank confirms that an increase in women’s financial independence and social standing has a direct impact on the welfare of future generations.
“If Australian governments at all levels implement these two initiatives, women’s participation in Australia’s commercial sector would be radically revolutionised,” Vega said.
The AWCCI Issues Paper recommends that governments at all levels set an initial target of 5 percent in the award of contracts to women-owned SMEs with annual reviewal.
It also recommends that governments and their agencies start collecting sex desegregated data to learn which businesses are procuring the billions worth of contracts awarded to SMEs.
Vega believes establishing and reaching targets with a mandate across all agencies is an appropriate step towards increasing women’s participation in the procurement process to contribute to economic growth.
“Women make 80 percent of consumer decisions. If they don’t have access to capital, they can’t spend. If women stop spending, our economy will come to a dead halt. That’s the reality,” she said.
“If women don’t have access to contracts, they can’t grow their business and taxpayers will have to support hundreds of thousands now in danger of living below the poverty line,” she added.
Less than 20 percent of women have tendered for a government contract according to AWCCI research.
“With this ground-breaking Australian research, the AWCCI can advocate for programs and policies to ensure women business owners and female entrepreneurs are able to maximise their contribution to our nation’s economic growth,” Vega said.