Women’s participation in business is in the spotlight this week with November 19 marking Women’s Entrepreneurship Day.

The global day aims to recognise and support women in business, who continue to be underrepresented as founders.

Women’s Entrepreneurship Day was initiated by entrepreneur and humanitarian Wendy Diamond as part of a global movement with an ambitious goal to develop a network of people and organisations to support women business leaders realise their full potential and change the world.

The day has been proclaimed globally by the United Nations with the objective of empowering women and girls to alleviate the gender gap. It wants to encourage the 4 billion women worldwide to be catalysts for change and uplift over 250 million girls living in poverty worldwide.

Diamond explained that empowering women and investing in their futures helps to drive and promote economic vitality and security, locally and globally.

“Twenty-first century leadership skills, such as cooperation, communication and sharing are more commonly associated with women.

We want to celebrate the unwavering positives that women entrepreneurs bring to the global economy as well as inspire and support future generations of women entrepreneurs,” Diamond said.

A range of organisations including Nasdaq, Google For Start Ups, MIT Innovation Labs, WEGate and Girls Scouts are supporting this year’s event.

The Australian and NZ WEDO ambassadors are Theme Rains, Tara Singh, Peace Mitchell, Rachael Ferguson, Serina Bird, Caroline Kennedy and Candice Meisels and to mark the day, WEDO is hosting a ticketed virtual event tomorrow with speakers, workshops and panels.

Lack of progress on female founders

It’s predicted it will take 202 years for women to achieve gender equality, giving a particular importance to days like Women's Entrepreneurship Day that help to bridge that gap.

While research demonstrates the value of giving women economic advantages, there’s been little progress towards this.

In 20 years, the number of female-led businesses grew by just 3 per cent, according to a 2017 Wade Institute report, which also found (on average) only a third of funded companies have at least one female co-founder and women are underrepresented as partners in venture capital firms, which provide vital financial support to start-ups.

And when it comes to local start-ups, a lack of comprehensive data makes the real causes of disconnect invisible, according to the report.

Yet studies such as the 2012 World Bank report show that when women have ‘agency’ to make their own choices, and control financial and other resources, it strongly correlates with economic development, cultural stability and population health in developing cultures.

Added to this, a McKinsey Global Institute study found that advancing women's equality could add $12 trillion to the global economy by 2025.

Women are also the world’s most responsible borrowers, paying back microloans worldwide today at a 97 per cent rate of return; 90 per cent of the money they earn is used to educate their children and to provide for their families.

Pandemic part of harder path for female founders

These initiatives are needed to overcome barriers that make it harder for female founders. According to Diamond, there are many reasons, with women tending to be more risk adverse and often excluded from male dominated traditional ways of doing business.

The pandemic has also disproportionately impacted women and this year WEDO wants to draw attention to its deeper effect on women’s jobs, increasing gender inequality is rising.

“Women make up 39 per cent of the world's employment force, but recently due to the pandemic have lost 53 per cent of jobs worldwide,” said Theme Rains, Australian Ambassador for Women’s Entrepreneurship Day Organisation.

The pandemic also highlighted workforce instability and the importance of flexibility, and while lacking in many role models, 44 per cent of young women are now more interested in starting a business as a result of the pandemic, according to a 2021 Accelerator for Enterprising Women report.

In Australia, the Boosting Female Founders Initiative, which is worth $52.2 million in total, provides co-contribution funding support to women-led start-ups to improve diversity and help women entrepreneurs overcome the disadvantages faced in getting access to finance and support to grow their start-ups and enable founders to scale.

“With the economic turmoil due to COVID-19, women and minorities have been the hardest hit economically and by movement to virtual workplaces. Investing in women has never been more critical,” Diamond said.