International Women’s Day is upon us again this year on the 8th of March - 2020 (I personally think it should be a week.)
With beginnings rooted in protests against terrible working conditions and exploitation in the workforce and also the complete lack of voting rights given to women (half the population, ridiculous), International Women’s Day now is used to bring awareness to how successful women have become since giving them basic human rights and also how far we have to go with reducing rates of domestic violence, workplace harassment and still yet, experiencing the unequal distribution of opportunities in schools, higher education, and the workforce.
Quick anecdote. I remember when I was finishing year 10 and I had yet to choose my elective classes for the HSC. I was (and still am) a little bit of a nerd when it comes to the web and to computers. I remember wanting to choose IPT (computers basically) for one of my electives and my parents, even though I knew they only had my best interests at heart, told me that maybe I shouldn’t consider taking on that subject since there are so many boys better than me at using computers.
Even in 2008, there was still this pervasive, insidious idea that women couldn’t be successful scientists, mathematicians, computer nerds, and entrepreneurs and I’m writing now to show how long women have been doing these things, and how successful they have been for the longest time against the doubt and adversity they have faced.
This article isn’t about female oppression. This article is about the success of women. Women have always been powerful. Women will continue to be powerful.
Women in business and the workforce
Women make up half of the population. That’s a lot of people. That’s a lot of potential that shouldn’t be ignored or underestimated.
Closing the gap between male and female employment rates would have important implications for the Australian economy. We estimate that closing this gap would boost the level of Australian GDP by 11%. In this respect, Australia is only 2/3rds of the way to unlocking the hidden value of the female labour pool.1
Closing this gap is pretty simple1
Incentivise females at higher levels of education to move into courses and career paths beyond education, training, health, and social services.
Incentivise employers to keep links with female employees who have left work on parental leave. For instance, topping up the new parental payment for undertaking employer sanctioned training.
Incentivise females to return to the workforce after childbirth. Child care, flexible working hours and retraining programs are all important in this regard.
Fund educational programs within schools to break stereotypes of females choosing low pay, low hours, clerical or social service roles.
Fund education programs in the workplace targeting discrimination, pay equality and reluctance to use flexible working entitlements.
Provide a timetable for increased female participation in Australia's top 200 boards and executive teams with a minimum quota of 2 female positions per board and an audit on female representation at the executive level.
‘We often say we don’t have enough women running organisations, but they’re there and sometimes we’re just not seeing them, the talent in this country is hidden in plain sight’
Women are rated better than men on key leadership capabilities
Now that we know that employing more females across a broader range of industries and roles could only lead to more financial benefits for the country, now let’s get into the businesses that already are owned and lead by females that have proven how successful female-lead businesses can be.
Famous businesses founded by females (just a few)
OzHarvest was founded in 2004 by Ronni Kahn. Driven by a passion to make a difference and stop good food going to waste; she started with one van in Sydney. After changing the law to make it safe for companies to donate surplus food, she has grown OzHarvest to be Australia’s leading food rescue organisation, opened the first rescued food supermarket and is now taking the unique food rescue model global. Ronni is a powerhouse in the fight against global food waste.
Carman's Fine Foods
Carman's was founded in 1992 by 18-year-old Carolyn Cresswell. The small muesli business she bought for $1000 is now available in all major supermarkets across Australia, as well as being exported to many countries around the world.
Aboriginal Tent Embassy - Redfern
Aunty Jenny Munro modeled the 2014 Aboriginal Tent Embassy after the 1972 Parliment House Tent Embassy. Her actions led to the Government spending $5 million on 62 affordable homes in Redfern.
So we’ll begin with a computer nerd since it hits a little close to home. Sandy Lerner co-founded Cisco in 1984 along with her husband through the development of some of the first multi-protocol LAN networks through wanting to contact her husband digitally while in separate offices at Stanford (aw cute). The early routers that made Cisco so successful supported multiple protocols and were scalable for the businesses that needed to adopt such technology.
Sara Blakely, at age 29, snipped the feet off a pair of pantyhose so she’d have a smoother shape under a pair of white pants and founded Spanx. There’s no wonder in that in 2012 she was declared the world's youngest, female, self-made billionaire.
A few famous and incredibly under-appreciated successful women in history
I think we also need to bring up some under-appreciated historical figures that helped pave the way for progress in the modern-day. The women that are in this list are women that I am still shocked I wasn't taught about during my education at a girl's high school. There are so, so many important females in history but these are the ones you may not know a whole lot about.
Ruby Payne-Scott was an Australian physicist, radio astronomer, and schoolteacher. In 1941 Payne-Scott was hired by the division of radiophysics of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization) to conduct research into a new, secret defensive weapon, radar. She was the expert on the detection of aircraft using PPI (Plan Position Indicator) displays. She was also at the time a member of the Communist Party and an early advocate for women's rights.
In the 1940s, Payne-Scott helped lay the foundation for a new field of science called radio astronomy. Her work led to the discovery of deep-space phenomena like black holes and pulsars and later helped astronauts understand how solar storms disrupt weather in space and electrical grids on Earth.15
R.I.P Katherine Johnson - 24 February 2020. A brilliant mathematician who helped put man on the moon. She calculated and analysed the flight paths of many spacecraft during her more than three decades with NASA and was the first woman to receive credit as an author of a research report in NASA.
Admiral grace hopper
Another brilliant mathematician who was a pioneer in developing computer technology, helping to devise UNIVAC I, the first commercial electronic computer. While at Harvard in 1944, she worked on Mark I, the first large-scale automatic calculator and a precursor of electronic computers. When a moth got inside the machine, Grace coined the term bug to refer to unexplained computer failures.
Rosalind Franklin made a crucial contribution to the discovery of the double-helix structure of DNA. She discovered the density of DNA and, more importantly, established that DNA molecules have a helix formation.
Happy International Women’s day. A day to not only bring awareness to the violence oppression women still face the world over but also to celebrate the many successes and victories of women past and present. Here’s to a future of more women in the workforce, more female-owned successful businesses and more recognition of our achievements and our strength in the face of doubt and adversity.
- Goldman Sachs (2009). Australia's Hidden Resource: The Economic Case For Increasing Female Participation. [online] Goldman Sachs JBWere Investment Research. Available at: https://www.asx.com.au/documents/about/gsjbw_economic_case_for_increasing_female_participation.pdf [Accessed 27 Feb. 2020].
- Tattersall, H. (2018). Women of Influence 2018: Surge in entries from entrepreneurs and small business. [online] Australian Financial Review. Available at: https://www.afr.com/women-of-influence/women-of-influence-2018-surge-in-entries-from-entrepreneurs-and-small-business-20180822-h14bok [Accessed 27 Feb. 2020].
- Bosma, N. and Kelley, D. (2019). Global Entrepreneurship Monitor - 2018/2019 Global Report. [online] Global Entrepreneurship Monitor. Available at: https://www.gemconsortium.org/report/gem-2018-2019-global-report [Accessed 27 Feb. 2020].
- OECD (2017), Entrepreneurship at a Glance 2017, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/entrepreneur_aag-2017-en.
- Wikipedia contributors. (2020, February 17). Cisco Systems. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 05:28, February 27, 2020, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Cisco_Systems&oldid=941333215
- Encyclopedia Britannica. (2020). Katherine Johnson | Biography & Facts. [online] Available at: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Katherine-Johnson-mathematician [Accessed 27 Feb. 2020].
- Vinton, K. (2020). How Two Dermatologists Built A Billion Dollar Brand In Their Spare Time. [online] Forbes.com. Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/katevinton/2016/06/01/billion-dollar-brand-proactiv-rodan-fields/#51e9bfac3bfe [Accessed 27 Feb. 2020].
- Encyclopedia Britannica. (2020). Grace Hopper | Biography & Facts. [online] Available at: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Grace-Hopper [Accessed 27 Feb. 2020].
- Encyclopedia Britannica. (2020). Rosalind Franklin | Biography, Facts, & DNA. [online] Available at: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Rosalind-Franklin [Accessed 27 Feb. 2020].
- Harvard Business Review. (2020). Research: Women Score Higher Than Men in Most Leadership Skills. [online] Available at: https://hbr.org/2019/06/research-women-score-higher-than-men-in-most-leadership-skills [Accessed 28 Feb. 2020].
- wearethenest.com.au, T. (2020). Our Staff - OzHarvest. [online] OzHarvest. Available at: https://www.ozharvest.org/our-family/staff/ [Accessed 2 Mar. 2020].
- Carmanskitchen.com.au. (2020). Carolyn Creswell | Carman's Kitchen. [online] Available at: https://www.carmanskitchen.com.au/our-story/carolyn-creswell/ [Accessed 2 Mar. 2020].
- NITV. (2020). Jenny Munro brings Tent Embassy back to Redfern. [online] Available at: https://www.sbs.com.au/nitv/article/2016/06/24/jenny-munro-brings-tent-embassy-back-redfern [Accessed 2 Mar. 2020].
- Goss, W. and Hooker, C. (2020). Biography - Ruby Violet Payne-Scott - Australian Dictionary of Biography. [online] Adb.anu.edu.au. Available at: http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/payne-scott-ruby-violet-15036 [Accessed 2 Mar. 2020].
- Nytimes.com. (2020). Overlooked No More: Ruby Payne-Scott, Who Explored Space With Radio Waves. [online] Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/29/obituaries/ruby-payne-scott-overlooked.html [Accessed 2 Mar. 2020].