On International Women’s Day, when you stop to think about the 'typical' New Zealand businesswoman, it’s clear there’s no such thing. Yet all of New Zealand’s businesswomen have worked hard for their success. Together, we’ve achieved incredible milestones. Now, we must continue to advocate for women in business. We’ve got so many outstanding female mentors who are stepping up for business people.
Women got straight to business in New Zealand.
In Aotearoa, there have always been women getting straight to business, even against the odds. Māori women were some of the first entrepreneurs in New Zealand, taking quickly to trade with newcomers. Women led as many as 20% of New Zealand's early commercial enterprises.
Catherine Bishop’s book Women Mean Business, carries the eye-opening stories of 600 early entrepreneurs such as Annie Millar. She founded what is now Quality Bakers. The success of our earliest businesswomen was despite the laws of the 19th century being stacked against them. It was almost impossible to create contracts, take on debt or even chase debtors. Nevertheless, those women kept working hard and looking forward.
Our milestones are worth celebrating.
New Zealand women led the world when they gained the vote in 1893. Since then, there have been many other milestones to celebrate, including in 1972 The Equal Pay Act. New Zealand women have succeeded at the highest level of business, but too few are given opportunities to step into that leadership role.
We’ve celebrated exceptional women thriving in the corporate world. Theresa Gattung, Peri Drysdale, Lee Mathias and many more have blazed an inspiring path. A recent study showed 13.4% of startup founders who graduated from New Zealand universities were women. That’s the highest percentage of any country in the world.
Now, a new wave of women entrepreneurs are redefining business itself. Founders such as Brianne West, Lisa King and Brooke Roberts are achieving commercial success while also putting purpose at the heart of their organisations.
We must keep championing change.
Our biggest wins are when women who succeed give others an opportunity to do the same. Awards play an essential part in keeping women's business accomplishments visible and showing others what's possible.
Targeted initiatives offering tangible support are crucial. SheEO is a platform that helps remove the barriers women face for business investment. Less than 5 per cent of the world's venture capital funding goes to female-led businesses.
Women's Fund is another initiative that recognises the value of investing in women. It is creating impact and positive change now by investing in women, and in the long term through its Future Fund.
Even in business support organisations with long histories, leading women are making changes towards better inclusivity and empowerment.
At Business Mentors New Zealand, CEO Sarah Trotman’s leadership and energy has attracted more outstanding female mentors than ever before. Female business owners can enjoy genuine support from someone who truly knows what it means to be a businesswoman in New Zealand. In fact, all business owners now have a better opportunity to find a fresh perspective and insights through the Mentor service.
Our next steps should be taken at a run.
It's clear our businesswomen are great at stepping up. Furthermore, we're in a country that's ready to build a future with better equity and more opportunities. Now, it's up to every single one of us to set the pace and bring as many others as we can.
Mentoring someone to success is a rewarding way to make a difference. Business Mentors New Zealand is always on the lookout for experienced business people who are prepared to give their time so others can thrive. If you’re a woman who can help others by sharing what you’ve learned then please get in touch with us.
Together, we can continue to celebrate the success of women in business, and support them to continue to thrive.