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Entrepreneurial women advance into “male industry” territory

Tuesday, 29 May 2012 | By Michelle Hammond

Women are starting businesses at twice the rate of men and are starting to take up senior roles in traditionally male industries such as construction and agriculture, according to official figures.


According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the number of Australian women starting their own business is growing at twice the rate of Australian men.


But contrary to popular belief, other research shows women are becoming key influencers in typically male-dominated industries such as building, construction and agriculture.


The research, released by the Commonwealth Bank, found the top industry sectors in which women are more likely to control the financial aspect of the business include retail, construction, agriculture, and forestry and fishing.


The research has been released in the lead-up to the 2012 Telstra Business Women’s Awards, to be held throughout September, October and November.


The awards celebrate the achievements of female business owners from the private or corporate sector, and from community or government organisations.


The finalists and award winners will share in more than $200,000 in cash and prizes, in addition to networking opportunities. Recent winners have come from a range of non-traditional sectors.


For example, the 2010 national winner, Melissa Mellen, is chief research scientist at CSIRO, while Terri Irwin took out the 2007 title for her role as director of Australia Zoo.


According to Kate McKenzie, Telstra group managing director of innovation, products and marketing, Australian businesswomen are “brave, smart and passionate” about their businesses.


“They are innovating in health, education, retail, manufacturing, construction and tourism,” McKenzie said in a statement.


“Women in every sector of Australian business – and that includes government and charities – are driving innovation that will underpin Australia’s future.”


McKenzie said since the awards were introduced in 1995, there have been many outstanding examples of innovation in sales and marketing, process, products and service.


“In 2011, two national award winners were taking their innovation globally,” McKenzie said.


“[They were] a scientist who developed ‘green steel’ technology that uses waste resources and cuts carbon emissions during production, and the founder of an online retail business where women can design their own shoes.”


“Another national winner was giving elderly Australians the ability to be safe and independent through new medication compliance solutions.”