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Female entrepreneurs reject boards for start-ups

Wednesday, 2 March 2011 | By Michelle Hammond

A new survey, conducted by Executive Women of Australia, highlights the reasons why more women are choosing to start their own businesses rather than climb the corporate ladder.


Melanie Kansil, a member of women’s entrepreneurship network Heads over Heels, says the survey comes on the back of recent media reports regarding the lack of women on corporate boards.


According to EWA, which surveyed 1,500 of its members, more than 50% of women aspire to progress to a senior executive role, but 27% remain unconfident in pursuing their career due to gender barriers.


According to the survey, 44% of women believe it will take at least 10 years to reverse the current decline in senior appointments.


EWA executive director Tara Cheesman says the survey highlights the huge number of women who aspire to work in senior roles but are held back.


“What we are seeing is a large number of ambitious, very capable women, with the talent and the desire to contribute as senior executives, feeling like they are being restrained and belittled by gender barriers,” Cheesman says.


“Women won’t be satisfied to continue to sit on the corporate sidelines and see the ‘boys club’ remain the status quo.”


Kansil says women aspiring to climb the corporate ladder are becoming increasingly “bored with boards”, prompting them to start their own businesses.


“Increasingly, women are powering start-up ventures as springboards to reshape Australia’s business landscape,” she says.


“What I see among the very talented women I know is that the traditional corporate way of working just doesn’t suit them.”


“Not only does it not suit their lifestyle, but their work is not necessarily in line with their actual role – they often find themselves spending a lot of time on office politics, having to build their personal brand, and other things they view as a waste of their time.”


“If and when women leave the corporate world, they can often earn the same remuneration but be working less and focus on the things they want to do.”


According to Kansil, one area in which women often decide to branch out on their own is consulting because it is a “natural fit” between work and home life.


With regard to whether a woman is equipped to leave the corporate world, Kansil says there are two levels of “readiness” she must consider.


“One is financial readiness – are you in a position where you can have quite a bit of uncertainty about your income? Because if you’re starting a business, it can be quite a long time before you’re making any money,” she says.


“The second thing is emotional readiness – starting and operating your own business is not like going to a day job; it can be challenging, stressful and often lonely.”