Why women may hold the key to economic revival in regions

Queensland’s post-COVID economic revival may well lean on the efforts of small business owners, many of whom are women, prompting calls for more support  to help female leaders thrive.

Feb 05, 2021, updated Feb 05, 2021
Amanda Cole and Tara Jacobsen say lifting women's confidence in business will benefit Queensland's post-COVID economy.

Amanda Cole and Tara Jacobsen say lifting women's confidence in business will benefit Queensland's post-COVID economy.

Business educator Amanda Cole recently completed a project in the Lockyer Valley with women leading hospitality businesses, where she found high volumes of expertise but low levels of confidence undermining growth potential.

“What we found in the Lockyer was women really skilled at their chosen field, but lacking business confidence leading to being easily overwhelmed, stressed and inhibited from making good decisions,” she said.

“They are so busy working in the business and not on the business that they don’t allocate time for planning and delegating and then they constantly second-guess the decisions they need to make.

“This can be absolutely paralysing for a business.”

Cole is the co-founder of Groei, a Brisbane-based adult education provider that is offering Australia’s first virtual regional business education and mentoring solution for female-led regional business owners.

Her business partner Tara Jacobsen, says if the evidence of what they’ve uncovered in the Lockyer Valley is replicated within other communities across Queensland, then hundreds of small to medium sized enterprises could be potentially under-performing, just at a time when the economy needs them to fire.

“I recall from my years in Port Hedland, where as a business owner and operator I felt very isolated and different, especially in a mining town where at that time the men worked in the mines and the women had nothing else to do but sit around all day and drink tea,” Jacobsen said.

“It takes a lot of courage for a woman to strike out on her own and take on a new business, especially in a rural or regional area.

“But what I’ve seen over the years is that once women do, they bring an appreciable lift in prosperity and economic stability to their community.

“Because they are highly collaborative and visible, they also have to be innovative, especially when they might also be juggling child-rearing and the demands of family.”

Cole said statistics showed more women over 40 starting businesses than at any other time in our history.

“That’s good news for economic activity generally, but also for women who took the brunt of Covid when restrictions impacted hospitality and service sectors – areas where women tend to dominate,” she said.

“The evidence also tells us that once a woman starts a business, those operations tend to be more successful over the longer term.

“That’s because women are generally more collaborative and more willing to seek help when they feel they might be lacking in skills, experience or support.

“They are natural seekers of knowledge and peer support. They are not afraid to ask questions and will do so freely from the knowledge base within their own communities.

“It’s these attributes that often make their businesses more sustainable longer-term.”

Groei is currently running fee online workshops to business owners needing knowledge and support via the Brisbane City Council Business Hub website.

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