Read it and join in the conversation.
An interview I did about 6 weeks ago popped up in the papers last weekend. In the Australian. It’s titled Australian businesses run by women hit China barrier. Read at your own risk.
Here concludes the trilogy of findings from our latest Women in Global Business report. There are two sets of findings I want to highlight.
China’s rise: The international markets most frequently identified by the Australian businesswomen we surveyed as the most important market were China (34%), the USA (23%), and the UK (7%). China was more frequently cited as most important (36%) for the more experienced organisations (those operating internationally for over five years). China has jumped considerably since our first survey (from 18% to 34%). This year we also asked about the most important region and Asia was ranked #1 by just over half (52%) the women.
For more on China, see p.32 of the report.
The challenges of global expansion: Australia’s businesswomen have confronted, and overcome, a number of hurdles in their internationalisation efforts. Among the most substantial barriers we identify are: the high $A, difficulty locating a suitable distributor, red tape issues in establishing foreign operations, a lack of resources to cover the investment timeframe (especially relative to the costs), and a lack of alternative sources of capital.
Women running their own international organisations consistently rated these impediments as higher than the senior female employees (the exception was on the currency risk front). This is symptomatic of the large differences in access to resources, networks and information for these two groups of women.
This second annual survey allows us to track the progression of a subsample of the women from the first survey. Almost two thirds (63%) of the women who had indicated an intention to expand the number of countries in which their business operated had achieved this goal in 2014.
Doing business abroad has not got easier however. As these women expand their businesses into new locations, they continue to encounter issues that hinder growth. On almost all of the 31 issues we track across the survey, the respondents report the barrier to be causing more or similar hindrance to 12 months earlier. The only two to drop noticeably are cultural differences and the perceived risks of losing money selling products or services abroad.
The barrier that has most consistently increased is lack of alternative sources of capital. In this second annual survey we specifically investigate financing challenges which emerged from the inaugural survey as particularly salient for Australian businesswomen in the international arena. We find that most internationalised women‐owned organisations rely primarily on personal savings and reinvested profits to fund expansion. Only 21% of the owner-operators had attempted to borrow to fund internationalisation, and of these attempts, only 27% were successful. Only 10% of respondents regarded ease of accessing finance as easy or very easy, while 55% rated it difficult or very difficult.
Almost two fifths (39%) of the internationally engaged owner-operators felt that gender made a difference to their access to finance. This number was considerably higher (52%) for female owner-operators who were yet to internationalise. This does point to an often underplayed constraint to ongoing international expansion of women-owned Australian organisations.
Our report identifies a number of opportunities to nurture and assist Australia’s businesswomen in their international efforts. We offer promising evidence of the positive impact of mentoring in reducing barriers and building confidence, and a clear appetite for greater access to mentors. Programs such as WIGB are ideal mechanisms for increased sharing of information, contacts and lessons from successful counterparts, the building of skills and capacity, networking, and as a forum for offering specifically targeted policies and interventions.
To read more, see the report.
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.
Well, it certainly has been a long time between drinks. The last time I blogged I was seeking participants in a research project looking at Australia’s international businesswomen.
And you can download our fancy report called Australia’s Underestimated Resource:Women Doing Business Globally is available for free download at the Women in Global Business website.
Tell your friends!
Update: the report is also now downloadable from my research paper site.