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Older women a driving force in business ownership

Women’s business ownership is on the rise. There has been a 46 percent increase in the number of women business operators over the past two decades and more than two in five women business operators are aged 40-54.  The increase in the number of women owned businesses over that time also outstripped the growth of male owned businesses.

Proportionally, the likelihood of an employed woman being a business owner increases with age. Freed from caring responsibilities when children leave home, older women may well feel they have the capacity to shift gears in their professional lives. However, women also report that lack of promotion opportunities and flexibility for better work-life balance also impact on their decisions to set up their own businesses. For older women, ageist stereotypes in their workplaces can lead to early redundancy, but with women having  42 percent less superannuation than men, the need to remain in the workforce longer may also be a financial imperative.

While women’s business ownership has been growing steadily, they still lag behind men when it comes to entrepreneurship. Bridging this gender gap in entrepreneurship could boost the Australian economy by between $71 and 135 million. One reason for this gap is that women entrepreneurs generally have less access to finance than men. Compared to more traditional businesses, entrepreneurship involves the innovative exploitation of new products, processes or markets and typically requires a higher level of investment.  This perhaps explains the rise in hybrid or side entrepreneurship, where women hold down another job while they establish their businesses. For women (and men), remaining in regular employment while developing their enterprise, could provide the necessary bridge to successfully building a sustainable business. 

But there is good news for female start-ups. In Australia, while there are fewer women investors, when they do invest, on average they invest more than men.   

The benefits of self-employment are well documented. While entrepreneurs are among the happiest people on the planet, women entrepreneurs are generally more satisfied than male entrepreneurs, exhibiting higher scores on subjective well-being and work-life balance. Self-employed women also have higher job satisfaction than all other female workers.

So, the future looks bright for female business ownership and, on the basis of these trends, we can look forward to greater entrepreneurial activity in the future.

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