What if SA was the first place in the world to have 50% of investment capital going to female-led businesses? South Australia has a fine tradition of leading in gender social reform – first place for women to be able to run for parliament and second only to New Zealand for women to get the vote, almost a generation before the UK. Time to stop lagging, it's time to leap frog by using the powerful levers of economic power and property rights of ownership. We know from economic development in emerging economies the most powerful way to advance is to provide women with access to fertility control and funding. So, why don’t we take these lessons and apply to more sophisticated economies to bring equity and parity and surely in turn improve our societies and economies too?

SA is getting investment ready and making a down payment from the public purse to support innovation and job creation. What if a criteria was that 50% of all funding had to go to female led business and ensure 50% of the impact was for women? The pipeline would change, the ecosystem would change, innovation in selection, diversity in decision-making would be fostered and benefits would start turning up in the balance sheets.

I am longing for the day gender isn’t a variable, but until there is gender equity, applying a gender lens will be necessary. Ask the question of investors, policy makers, funders and donors, are they willing to allocate their precious resource in equal amounts to men and women? If there aren’t enough females in the pool, what can they do to foster that, how could they enable those opportunities? Plenty of incubators, accelerators are applying their business acumen and looking at ways they can create the conditions for female founders and ideas to come their way – it makes good business sense.

Here are just a few from around the world:

In Germany F-lane an initiative of Vodafone

In Ireland underwritten by government and in partnership with a commercial entity Enterprise Ireland's female founders program

In the UK there are a range of models too such as Female Founders which is a partnership with J.P Morgan

In USA there are a variety of models including consortia like the Y Combinator.

Throughout Asia you will find a wide range of models including partnering with international agencies like the dentsu aegis network (female foundry) and social enterprise models to build pipeline (eg CRIB in Singapore)

And here in Australia there are a range of models including subsidiaries of internationally successful programs like Springboard.

Gender is on the agenda and Australian company StartMate is embarking on research to find out more of why they aren't getting more women through their program and I have let them know we have a few ideas!

This week Suiz Sosa co-founder of Verb identified the lack of women VCs and the lack of gender equity in allocation of funds in her advice as part of the Don Dunstan Foundation's Thinkers program (at Social Capital Conference). This was also amplified in Dr Pam Ryan OAM's speech at the same conference and yes, while I have been in their ear about these variables – the facts speak for themselves.

 

Women are under represented in every part of the ecosystem of start ups and social enterprises as a recent article in Forbes with recent research, showed there now 131 corporate run accelerators around the world. "The shocking fact surrounding these programs is that 87% of them are run by men".

SA could be leaders in this globally and become the go-to place for others to learn how to be more inclusive, equitable and get more ideas from the 51% to international markets. A women led recovery could be in the offing. How about it?

PS Chooks were well represented at this week’s events in Adelaide during Entrepreneurs Week. Here are a few friendly faces at the Social Capital Conference with Suzi Sosa. Photo credit: David Pearson, CEO Don Dunstan Foundation

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