What do you call a gathering of female entrepreneurs? An opportunity

With Lyndsey Cattermole at the EY event.

I have just had the pleasure of being a participant at the Ernst & Young Women’s Entrepreneur Workshop in Sydney. It was a delight to listen to Carla Zampatti share her story of being an entrepreneur committed to women’s fashion and the struggles she faced in the late 60s. Lyndsey Cattermole shared the thrill and sheer determination it took to create her business – Aspect Computing – and Melissa Widner discussed her journey as a serial entrepreneur – and her role now as an angel investor and venture capitalist.

Avril Henry inspired the group with her insights into the traits of an entrepreneur – male or female.

  1. We don’t care what other people think about us (and the older we get the less we care)
  2. We have trouble imagining failure
  3. We embrace adversity and difficulty
  4. We take more risks than others – they are not careless risks – they are measured
  5. We manage and mitigate our stress – we use our stress, and don’t think of it as a hindrance to a problem
  6. We are there for the long term
  7. We will sacrifice almost anything to achieve our vision
  8. We have the ability to express ourselves and gain support from others

Senator Kate Lundy then spoke with us – and alas an opportunity was lost – we got government rhetoric and the party line. This was a chance to listen to 50 of Australia’s leading female entrepreneurs about our greatest challenges in creating big businesses. (And these challenges are probably not all that different to why there are not more women in leadership roles.)

Each of the three entrepreneurs mentioned in their presentations the constant battle of parenting and growing a business.

I have known Lyndsey for many years – in fact as a young girl she was a role model to me. My mother spent much of her career as a systems analyst with Lyndsey’s business Aspect Computing. Mum had said to me when I was at University “If Lyndsey can do it you can too”. We all need role models – someone to lead the way, and drag other women with them.

So when it came to question time – I was on my feet – asking for insights into their beliefs on the way forward with childcare for Australians.  All three resounded that at the bare minimum we MUST have tax deductible childcare to enable women to continue with their careers.

Avril Henry pointed out a section of the Tax Act that states (and I paraphrase) that a tax deduction is available to those expenses incurred to enable employment – hence Avril argued that the Tax Act already allows for ‘tax deductible childcare if it means that enables a woman to work’. However, the tax commissioner does not agree with this definition of the term.

Gillian Franklin, CEO of the Heat Group simply stated that this is the number one issue facing growth for the economy – and a formal review of the costs/benefits needs to be undertaken.

(I was thinking to myself – the more women working – the more tax that is paid – and the more people who are working in childcare – they will be paying taxes too) and everyone will have more spending power so the economy will grow.

The Senator’s response – we have introduced paid parental leave. Senator Lundy completely missed an opportunity to listen to entrepreneurial women – and to make a difference to the conversation. Less party line would have given her some credibility…..

Well done Ernst & Young for putting on such a worthwhile event. We look to you to keep the conversation going and pushing for a review of childcare in Australia. And good luck in getting this government to listen.

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3 Comments

  1. Posted October 26, 2011 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

    And you were on your feet quick smart!

    It was a great session – with buckets of inspiring comments and stories. I look forward to seeing how EY develop this into a program.

  2. Posted October 27, 2011 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    A very inspirational and enjoyable read. We definitely need more woman out there using their entrepreneurial spirit – there’s a lot out there!

  3. Posted October 27, 2011 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    Yes we definitely need childcare reforms – but what we know for sure about politicians is that they won’t act until their constituents demand change. Please Naomi can you encourage your readers to voice their concerns on this important issue via the petition at http://www.makecarefair.com.au – our goal is to collect 20,000 signatures and hand deliver them to Kate Ellis in Canberra before the end of the year. Please everyone – your voice counts – please sign the petition and demand some change.

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