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Forget about leaning in: apparently we should be leaping in.woman_-_green_leap

That’s the conclusion of the CEO of the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, Pamela Prince-Eason.

For the past 17 years, her organisation has lobbied US corporations and governments to award contracts to more than 12,000 companies, majority-owned by women.

According to the World Bank, women procure just 1% of all contracts, even though they own around 40% of businesses.

Sure, there’s systemic discrimination. But she says women need to be more “aggressive”.

There are still many people who join our organisation and say, now that I’m part of the network, that means so-and-so is just going to do business with me. That’s just absolutely not so,” Prince-Eason says. “Women need to actively pursue networking and partnering if they want to work with big business and government.”

Prince-Eason estimates only one-in-five companies understand the importance of the female dollar: “Corporations have come to realise the people who buy from them are not only white males.”

A study by the Boston Consulting Group found Australian women make 72 per cent of household spending decisions.

Over the next decade in the United States, women will control two-thirds of consumer wealth.

But BCG partner James Goth says women still feel “misunderstood” by financial services, car, and insurance companies.

Having more women in powerful roles to service female consumers just makes sense.

Prince-Eason says governments are lagging the private sector.

A study by the Boston Consulting Group found Australian women make 72 per cent of household spending decisions.

Over the next decade in the United States, women will control two-thirds of consumer wealth.

But BCG partner James Goth says women still feel “misunderstood” by financial services, car, and insurance companies.

Having more women in powerful roles to service female consumers just makes sense.

Prince-Eason says governments are lagging the private sector.

While the US government now sets aside 5% of contracts for women-run businesses, the Australian government doesn’t even collect data on the gender of company owners.

The Prime Minister Tony Abbott says ‘Australia is open for business’, but he’s yet to mention small business. Ignoring self-employed women, as he does his female MPs who are ‘knocking on the door’, will not help boost national productivity,” according to the executive director of the Australian Women Chamber & Commerce Industry, Yolanda Vega.

This is despite more women than men, aged between 33 and 45, running their own businesses.

A groundbreaking study by the Queensland University of Technology found female-owned firms perform just as well as those owned by men. “This dispels the female underperformance myth which, is left unchallenged, could result in inappropriate policy decisions.”

So why are we being left behind?

Prince-Eason puts it like this: “When you look at the overall characteristics of females when they approach males in the workplace, they can tend to take a subservient position. We tend to also be warmer, so approaching a meeting in a straightforward professional manner would feel kind of weird for some women. One of the things we try to promote is the recognition that you need to approach the marketplace on its terms.”

Research by two academics at the University of Queensland and the Australian National University bears this out.

They found assertive women are viewed favourably in the workplace, while tentative ones aren’t.

Assertive women were as likeable and influential as assertive men, while being tentative in leadership reduced the likeability and influence of women, but not of men. Although approval of agentic behaviour from women in leadership reflects progress, evidence that women are quickly singled out for disapproval if they fail to show agency is important for understanding how they continue to be at a distinct disadvantage to men in leader roles.

Finally, the workplace is ready for strong women.

Let’s leap to it!

 


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