While debate continues to rage about gender equality in the workplace, many women are being empowered to use their role as mothers to forge new careers as successful entrepreneurs.
Traditionally business was seen a man’s world, yet in recent decades, this barrier has been gradually breaking down. More recently, the internet has enabled many aspiring female entrepreneurs to leave the corporate world and launch businesses of their own.
“International Women’s Day is a great opportunity to recognise and celebrate the enterprising spirit of the women behind Australia’s powerful small business economy," said Rob Parcell, managing director of Optus Small Business.
One such business owner is Jessica Sette (pictured). The mother of one worked initially in the biopharmaceutical industry – one which she said remains very male-dominanted.
“I found it really quite difficult to make a strong first impression at work meetings, functions and events among larger groups of males. While I knew that I was extremely capable at my job and knew my worth to the company I worked for, I lacked that confidence to show it to others,” she said.
“It took a few years for me to really understand that the best way to make a good impression as a professional was to just work hard, respect everyone equally and let my personality shine through.”
That personality is now on full display after Ms Sette founded online children’s shoes retailer Romper Stomper Kids. The business allows her not only to indulge her creative side, but also balance working life with raising one-year-old son Axel.
“Yes, I work long hours and sometimes into the evenings with early morning starts, but it’s so rewarding to be able to see how far I have come and what I have created. I have so many creative ideas for my business that I feel this massive sense of passion and really loving every minute that I am working on it,” she said.
“I have realised the best thing is to show that I love what I do, and [that] I mean business! I therefore now don’t find being a woman as ‘challenging’ anymore, I find it empowering.”
According to behavioural specialist Sean Redmond, operating a business online allows women in particular to bypass the ‘boy’s club’ perception of certain industries and focus on their own core strengths.
“Getting to know the person behind the business resonates strongly with potential investors and clients,” Mr Redmond said.
“Sharing the challenges you’ve had to overcome to get to the place where you are now, coupled with your present-day success makes you more approachable.
“Through platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest, women are successfully using story telling to grow their businesses instead of conforming to the outdated 'hard sell' approach. It's actually about developing a love for your client and connecting with them honestly and authentically.”
Mr Redmond pointed to research by the Berkeley-Hass School of Business in the US showing that women are more successful in crowdfunding because they tend to be better storytellers, which resonates with would-be investors.
“Women can have a greater impact than ever before in business – using the traits they naturally excel at,” he said.
“In the online environment women are able to be fully aligned with who they truly are.”