Author: Alina Siegfried
Recently I asked a successful female entrepreneur, what was the one thing that New Zealand could do to encourage more women into entrepreneurship?
Her response was startlingly simple:
“Tell the stories of those who are already doing it”
By making women visible and showcasing what is possible, can we encourage other would-be entrepreneurs to make the leap? Can we better harness the extensive talents of our female workforce, by holding up examples of those who are walking the talk? Whether in the latest high heels from her award-winning designer shoe label, or those more figuratively navigating fibre optic cables in the world of tech?
Women are by no means invisible in entrepreneurial circles, yet they are still the exception rather than the norm. The fact that we need to preface ‘entrepreneur’ with ‘female’ or ‘woman’ when referring to a successful lady-of-business is telling. When was the last time you heard someone refer to a successful ‘male entrepreneur’?
Today, on International Women’s Day, we explore the scene for female entrepreneurs in New Zealand.
The video below is a piece we created to celebrate Global Entrepreneurship Week in 2015, and captures the thoughts of four leading entrepreneurial leading ladies in New Zealand: Maru Nihoniho, founder of gaming company Metia Interactive; Frances Valintine, founder of The Mind Lab; Anna Guenther, founder of crowdfunding platform PledgeMe; and Rebecca Mills, leading sustainability strategist.
Leading Change on the Edge of the Map
In 1893, Kate Sheppard lead a band of suffragettes to gather 32,000 signatures from New Zealand women, demanding that they be afforded the right to vote. The 270-metre long petition was the largest ever presented to the New Zealand Parliament, and on 19th September 1893, New Zealand became the first country in the world to give women the vote.
More than 120 years later, Kiwi women are still leading the way for many gender equality metrics. Like many developed nations, it is acceptable and indeed often encouraged for women to break out of traditional gender roles, and to get into business. Mastercard recently named New Zealand as the best country for supporting female entrepreneurship, in their Index of Women Entrepreneurs.
For female employees, the outlook is also good. In 2014, an article released by The Economist opened with the statement, “If you are a working woman, you would do well to move to New Zealand.” The article placed NZ as number one on the “glass-ceiling index”, which measured where in the world women have the best chance of equal treatment at work.
This is not to say that all is rosy in New Zealand. Like in many other developed nations, women do still face barriers and hurdles in entrepreneurial circles, which their male counterparts often do not experience. A recent report by Harvard Business School found that the percentage of women directors on boards in New Zealand was just 7.5% — less than half the global average of 16%. The gender wage gap in 2014 is 9.9% and has been hovering around this level for five years now. There is clearly still work to do here.
Women in Technology
We are seeing promising trends in New Zealand for women who are working within the tech sector. While we’re not immune to the lower ratio of women in IT roles and women studying STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), the gender pay gap is much closer in this area. Research from Absolut IT shows that men working in the NZ IT industry are paid just 1.9% more than women, compared to the average gender wage gap of 9.9%.
As women are beginning to see opportunities in the tech sector beyond endless lines of code, more are actively pursuing careers and their own ventures in this space. The Women in Innovation Summit, run by the National Advisory Council for the Employment of Women, was a fantastic initiative to weave together the many conversations happening around this space, and their Summary Report and Recommendations paint a solid roadmap for the future. On a local level, Meet-Up groups such as Wellington’s Female Founder’s Exchange and the NZTech Women’s Lunches introduced by former CEO Candace Kinser, are regularly bringing women entrepreneurs together to meet and learn from each other. Last year’s Women Who Get Sh*t Done unconference was a refreshing exploration of how woman can better support each other to do amazing things.
New Zealand is well-placed to be a leader, and become the destination for women entrepreneurs looking to create global impact. If you’re an entrepreneurial woman, working to solve global problems, and you have an interest in living and working in New Zealand, check out the Edmund Hillary Fellowship. Our three-year programme, involving retreats, workshops, access to global mentors and investors, and local expertise provides individualised support to help you succeed.
Aligned with the world’s first visa programme to focus on impact, the Global Impact Visa, we are currently recruiting our inaugural class of entrepreneurs, investors and startup teams to develop scalable solutions to global challenges. If this sounds like you, get in touch!