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Female entrepreneurs are growing at a faster rate than men. Today, a third of Australian entrepreneurs are women. The country ranks first in the proportion of women currently involved in start-up businesses among the participating developed economies in the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) 2010 survey. Here are the stories of the top female entrepreneurs bridging gender equality in Australia.

Catriona Wallace, Flamingo

“In my world I press for progress in high tech and in the capital markets in there being gender parity in these traditionally very masculine-oriented areas.”

Catriona Wallace belongs to one of the two companies on the Australian Securities and Exchange (ASX) with a female chief executive and chair. Despite not having that many women in the field of Artificial Intelligence, Wallace introduced Flamingo’s flagship Artificial Virtual Assistants technology back in 2014. Today, the start-up’s market capitalization sits at just under $40 million.

Karen Sheldon, Karen Sheldon Catering

“The problems in Tennant Creek won’t be solved with royal commissions or research, it will be solved by working with the people, one person at a time, one family at a time, one community at a time. We have helped 2500 people to a working future and a life that gets them off welfare. We know what works.”

Sheldon started a small restaurant in Tenant Creek which has now expanded into a company with four divisions employing a hundred staff and a turnover of more than $12 million. She is shifting her focus to starting Salt Bush, the social enterprise she believes is the future of her business. She was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia in 2017 as she works to help aboriginals who had welcomed her into Melbourne when she was new and running out of money.

Maree Adshead, Open Data Institute Australian Network

“There is great value, economic, social and environmental locked in our data that we collect every day. Unlocking that data and making it available for reuse by others enables the creation of new products and services.”

Adshead came across the Open Data Institute of Tim Berners-Lee when she had worked in London and she established the Open Data Institute Australian Network in 2014. The non-profit now has a turnover of $500,000 with just five employees and 30 volunteers.

Nadine Bates and Kristen Souvlis, Like a Photon Creative

“If you create content for a generation of humans who will grow up to be leaders, and you are showcasing positive examples of role modeling and pro-social behavior for them, then you are doing possibly one of the most important jobs in the world.”

Nadine Bates and Kristen Souvlis started Like a Photon Creative in 2012. After getting their breaks on Channel Ten, they became the second Australian company to produce for Sesame Street USA and the first female Australian writer and producers for the channel just two years after. Today they have Disney Australia among other major clients on their belt, and a flagship product on the way: an interactive Kindle for Kids called KINDERGO.

Penny Locaso, founder of BKindred

“I turned my whole life upside down, but when I wanted to reinvent myself there was nobody to help me do that. I wanted to create a company to help women create the life they wanted.”

Penny Locaso was an executive at Shell for 16 years before she completely changed her life and started BKindred, which is now expecting a turnover of $150,000 this year after three years of operation. Penny was voted most influential female entrepreneur by The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald and is one of the first Australian women to be accepted into Singularity University’s Executive Leadership Program.

Fiona Simson, National Farmers’ Federation

“I think for us it’s about making sure the farm can evolve and change and it’s sustainable.”

Fiona Simson is the first female president and chair of the National Farmers’ Federation. She runs her family-owned farm on Liverpool Plains. It started as a sheep property 90 years ago and has now grown with a cattle and cropping turnover of more than $5 million a year.

Katie Richards, Virtual Legal

“I grew up in a small sugar cane town in North Queensland where it was only the wealthy cane farmers who had lawyers to help them, and there was only one in town so if the other person was using the lawyer there was no other alternative. I decided to test the concept of whether we could provide lawyers into those regional areas of Australia using this mobile method so that we could start addressing the inequality of access issue – and it worked.”

Richards’ small-town upbringing got her to create an online law firm for communities with limited access to available lawyers. Richards’ online law hub Virtual Legal has attracted more than 1500 clients and grown at 400% a year since starting in 2013. PWC estimates Virtual Legal will have a $40 million valuation by 2019.

Lisa Carter, Clear Insurance

“I was frustrated by the corporate way of doing business and was keen to get back to true broking and putting my client’s needs first.”

Lisa Carter was the first female to be named insurance adviser of the year by a major industry awarding body with a  20-year history. She worked in the insurance industry and left corporate life after 20 years to do what she calls ‘true broking’, wherein the client is put first. To do so, she created a family business for her daughters called Clear Insurance.

Stephanie Reuss and Victoria Stuart, Beam

“We are now lucky enough to have created a business that allows us to be present with our kids more often. That was a moment when we thought ‘We want this to be accessible to everyone’.”

After quitting their inflexible corporate six-figure salary jobs to start Beam, the pair turned over $200, 000 dollars in their first year with just three part-time workers. With the project, they sim to represent the 8% of experienced professional Australians with dependents whose motivation for work is more centered on flexibility than the salary among others.

Kylie Lewis, Of Kin

“I started off in social media and content marketing and it was actually really interesting because a lot came out about people’s insecurities of promoting themselves out in the world. It really evolved into looking at what it takes to be a human business.”

Kylie Lewis is a solo-entrepreneur Digital Strategist whose business Of Kin turns over more than $100,000 annually since beginning in 2013. She cites another inspirational female entrepreneur, her boss during her time as the head of digital at Kikki K, Kristina Karlsson, as a major influence on her.

Eliza Brown, All Saints Wine

“I think for us [co-owners], we are not afraid to work really hard and do the dirty work to inspire everyone else. We hope what we are doing will inspire other people especially for our younger staff seeing the owners being women and men and they can see working in a business and juggling kids and the rest of your life is really important.”

Brown was pregnant when she lost her father and inherited his All Saints Wine business along with her brother and sister. Today, it turns over more than $5 million annually and employs 25 full-time staff with 15 part-time workers. They are expanding into exporting and adding a vineyard and a wine bar to diversify the business. As a woman in the Wine Australia Board and the Brown Brothers Board, on top of being chief executive of the family business, she points out that the challenge for women in her field is not against opposition but about finding the time to juggle the demands of leadership roles.

Future of Gender Equality in Australia.

Women’s participation in employment and self-employment is still a relatively new phenomenon. These women are making history. We looking forward to a time where there is no longer a distinction between women and men entrepreneurs, where they can be both considered part of the same segment. While today the subject is still an interesting case study to be observed and amazed at, we hope that in the future it is nothing of note but an everyday reality. Only then, can we really say that gender equality in Australia has been fully realized.

Are you inspired by these female role models?

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