The Rise And Rise Of The Powerhouse Women In Australian Small Business

By Kate Christie

Out of necessity, I started my first business over a decade ago. I left my executive role, a role I loved, because my cognitive and physical ability to continue to juggle a full time corporate career with full time motherhood had left me burned out. Unfortunately, not much has changed in the last decade – the Unstoppable Women survey (Go Daddy) of 1011 Australian women recently found that five out of six women have experienced burnout in their careers and crave the flexibility of being their own boss.

For mine, I quickly realized that I did not want to be ‘just’ a full time mother. I wanted to be a mum AND I wanted to use my big, beautiful brain. I wanted it all – to have my cake and eat it – and corporate Australia was not able to offer what I needed, so I created it for myself.

And I am not alone. I represent a very accurate picture of what a woman in business looks like in Australia today. 

I don’t need to go far to find other business women just like me. My 3 business besties are in exactly the same boat. Our 4 businesses are very different. We have different skills and qualifications. We have different products and services.

We have different customer needs. We have different business models. But it is what we have in common that unites us – we are all in our 50s or 60s, started our businesses out of necessity to help us manage carer responsibilities and we are all very much focussed on creating a lifestyle business that adds joy and meaning to our lives as opposed to simply looking to make a buck and working every hour that god sent.

This year I am off to Bali for 7 weeks while one of my business besties will spend 3 months in Italy. Go girls! 

Increasingly, as a 50-ish woman, I am very invested in living my best life and helping other women to do the same. After decades of nurturing everyone else, as ‘mid-life’ women, #ItsOurTurn to design and live our best lives. And based on the data, it’s pretty clear that this is exactly what we are doing:

  • ABS data shows that 34.8% of Australian business owner-managers are female, representing a 46% increase over the last two decades. 
  • We are starting our businesses out of necessity – we are intelligent, educated and skilled women and yet corporate Australia does not offer us the flexibility we want and need. And so we are voting with our feet and shedding our corporate skins for different threads: 81% of women business operators are mothers, compared with 57% of women employees and 6% of women business operators are primary carers of a person with disability, compared with 4% of other employed women (and 1.4% of employed men).
  • 44% of women business operators are aged 40-54. We have had enough of working ‘for the man’. We want to be our own boss. We want to set our own hours. We want to work with clients we love. And we want to pay ourselves what we deserve based on our decades of education, experience and wisdom.
  • We are not simply chasing a buck. We are making a life choice to become entrepreneurs. We are creating businesses that will bring us a huge amount of joy. We are creating businesses that fit in around the rest of our lives and that enable us to live a life by design. Almost 50% of women start a business motivated by their passion or hobby. Compare this to 35% of male entrepreneurs who are motivated by financial independence.

Small business is big: we account for 97.4% of all Australian businesses, we employ 41% of all working Australians – over 4.7 million people, and we contribute 32% of the country’s GDP. And mid-life women in small business are leading the way. By necessity, sure, but after all, necessity is the mother of all invention.  

Kate Christie is a time management expert, coach and the best selling author of 5 books. Her latest book, The Life List: Master Every Moment and Live an Audacious Life, is a call to action for ‘mid-life’ women to design and live their best lives.