Our second report for Women in Global Business is out and about. It results from a survey of 400+ Australian businesswomen, many of whom run their own internationally-engaged business.
In summary, we found that there is a large, active group of women-owned businesses operating across varied foreign markets. These are typically young, small-medium-sized enterprises, founded within the past 4-8 years. They have been very quick to embrace global opportunities.
Over two-fifths (42%) internationalised within 12 months of start-up, and 81% within the first 5 years. A third of these organisations (33%) earn more than 50% of their sales revenue internationally. Expanding overseas has been a key success driver for these women-owned businesses. Almost two thirds (62%) report sales growth of more than 10% over the past year. Over a third (35%) report sales growth of more than 40%. These numbers are even higher for organisations that have internationalised in the past five years, with 52% reporting sales growth of more than 40% in the past year. Foreign sales growth of more than 100% was reported by 16% of the women-owned businesses.
Almost a fifth (19%) of the women-owned businesses also reported growth in employment numbers of 10% or more over the past 12 months, with 4% more than doubling their headcount. Again, employment growth was even higher for firms in early stages of internationalisation. Of those who have internationalised within the past 5 years, 31% reported growth in employment numbers of 10% or more over the past 12 months, with 9% more than doubling their headcount.
Australia’s female international owner-operators do not fit the stereotype of young, brash entrepreneurs. Rather, these female success stories are overwhelmingly baby-boomers (62% are 50+ years of age). They are very well-educated (78% hold a bachelor degree or higher). They bring a wealth of life and business experience to their start‐ups. Half (50%) have worked overseas in previous organisations, typically for five or more years, often in the USA, UK, China or Singapore.
Australia’s women-owned businesses have already achieved significant success overseas, with the majority (51%) operating in five or more foreign markets, and a quarter in ten or more. There is a strong appetite for further expansion with 74% indicating they are seeking to expand into new markets, and none intending to scale back their global reach.
The most common first locations for expansion by women-owned organisations were the USA (14%), NZ (12%), UK (9%) and Japan (8%). China has been on the rise in recent years, accounting for 13% of first entries in the past five years. Asia is by far the most common region for first expansion, up from 40% of firms who first went international 5 or more years ago to 47% of firms who internationalised within the past 5 years. The big drops have been in Europe (down from 20% to 11%) and Oceania (20% to 13%).
Later this week I’ll summarise our findings on the Aussie international businesswomen employed in senior strategic roles.