When we started this wild TWOOBSy ride in 2016 one of the things we were most excited about was using our platform to encourage more women to get into business. We actually had a teeny weeny grant called the Two Grant to help early stage female-founded startups get off the ground.
A moment for baby J&S beaming with excitement alongside our first Two Grant recipient Shanya Suppasiritad for her business Rntr. Also beaming.
Seven years on and many cultural shifts later, we were kind of under the impression that this was an issue that no longer needed our attention. A box that’s been ticked… a cake that’s been baked… a boop that’s been blooped… okay you get the point…. ready to move onto other pressing matters like uhhhhh we don’t know that thing called the climate crisis?!
Anyway last week our auntie shared some stats with us about the current state of female entrepreneurship in Australia and it turns out we were wrong. Like really really wrong.
Last year in Aus 0.7% of all capital investment (that’s the money invested in businesses) was given to solely female-founded companies. Yep you read that correctly - 0.7%. That means that over 99% of capital funding went to male founded or male co-founded businesses last year.
(Pause for a very dramatic deep breath).
So the next obvious question: how the hell did we let ourselves get here?
Allow us to take you back to yesteryear – and by that we mean the early 2010s. The era of the #Girlboss. We’re talking Sophia Amaruso dominating at Nasty Gal, Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In a NY times bestseller, Emily Weiss starting Glossier. The girlboss train was leaving the station and we’re not gonna lie, we wanted to get our pointy acrylic claws on a ticket. Cue women trying to make it in a man’s world.
Now we are nothing if not truth tellers here so we won’t sugar coat it – this movement had some serious flaws. The train was mostly full of white cis gendered women and it was a luxurious speed train to success for some and a stuffy rickety carriage for others. In the years that followed we all watched as the women spearheading this movement built incredibly successful companies, and then watched closer as many fell from grace with seriously toxic workplace culture and a lack of diversity being brought to light by some very brave employees.
This should have been a moment in time where we all took a hard look at ourselves, we listened and learned lessons, and ultimately moved forward into a much more diverse and stronger ecosystem of female leaders. That isn’t what happened though, and it has us wondering where we went wrong.
What’s that bizarre saying about baby and bathwater again? Rather than weeding out the bad and bringing what was good with us, did we (perhaps unknowingly) villainize women in business altogether - group them as one overly ambitious, non-inclusive and unempathetic archetype to be left in the ashes?
The stats would kind of suggest so, with the US seeing a year on year decline in funding to female-founded startups since 2020, and the number of women in power at top companies in Australia declining by 14% last year.
Okay another pause, let’s catch our breath.
If like us your brain is saying something like “what the f I thought females in business wasn’t something I really needed to have on my long laundry list of sh*t I should care about in 2023” then helloooo sister us too. But the trends we’re seeing not just in business but globally (US, we’re looking at you), suggest that when we get complacent things seem to start going backwards.
So this is where we propose a radical idea. Rather than using this IWD to just eat cupcakes and have a wine with your mates… let’s actually start over. This IWD - while you’re eating those cupcakes and having that wine with your mates - can you start a discussion about what happens when we become complacent about our rights?
We know there are so many things in our current world that require your attention, but we need to remember that all facets of women’s rights still is and maybe will always be one of them.
Jess and Stef x
Please note throughout this post references to girls, females and women is inclusive of all those who identify as female.