Throughout March, I’ve highlighted businesses, organisations and individuals who are making a difference in the lives of women – and how they are using public relations or other marketing tactics to do so.
This week … 3 female-led, Australian businesses who are helping other women succeed in the paid workforce and how they are actively working to improve gender equality.
Recent research shows Australian women earn less, are more likely to work part-time or casually and are less likely to hold leadership positions in the workforce.
Throw in continuing issues of underemployment and a greatly reduced retirement income for women and you have a situation that extends past gender inequality to one that impacts families and society more broadly.
But much is being done to bridge these gaps.
In the lead up to International Women’s Day I spoke to the founders of three Australian small businesses, who are applying their marketing, business and creative skills to help other women both re-enter and succeed in the paid workforce.
Sisters-in-law, Jade Collins and Alanna Bastin-Byrne founded Femeconomy with a very clear premise in mind – they wanted to address gender equality in business by harnessing the purchasing power of women consumers. In their words: ‘the Femeconomy Effect’.
Jade explained how Femeconomy came about.
“I was on a work trip in Melbourne, sitting in the back of a taxi, when I read that women make 85% of consumer purchase decisions,” she said.
“When I read that, I thought that was such a powerful economic lever that I didn’t see anyone else exploiting to advance gender equality.
“We all know that money talks in business, so I had the idea to educate consumers – and particularly female consumers, because they were the ones making purchasing decisions, around brands that actually had women in leadership, so that people could preferentially support those brands – and really then encourage more brands to get on board and increase the proportion of women on their boards and women in their executive.”
Femeconomy features more than 700 brands, across a variety of products and services. To be featured on the site as Femeconomy-approved, businesses must have at least 30% women on their Board of Directors, or be 50% female owned.
In the six months since launch, Femeconomy has received a lot of support from the wider business community, including big-name corporates such as Google, the Commonwealth Bank and Telstra.
The missing piece of the gender equality strategies puzzle
“It’s been incredible, actually,” said Alanna.
“We’re two people working from home, networking it ourselves and those large corporates have been willing and able to engage in the conversation because they see what we are doing as the missing piece of the puzzle when you look at the gender equality strategies in Australia.
“There’s no one actually doing consumer activism – there’s many companies doing top-down strategies but no one’s doing what we’re doing and that’s why all those main stakeholders have also engaged with us,” she said.
Both Jade and Alanna make use of their previous professional backgrounds – Jade in human resources and Alanna, marketing and community development. They’ve seen both sides of the glass ceiling for women in play.
“Lots of the industries I worked in have balanced leadership teams both in executive and board level so when I was speaking to Jade about some of her experiences, I just thought it was really unfair that in some industries in Australia, or the majority, they don’t have that balanced leadership,” said Alanna.
Marketing and audience engagement
Jade and Alanna have relied on a combination of methods to engage with their target audience, including blogging, social media, influencer marketing and public relations.
Each week they interview women leaders for the Femeconomy blog, promoting the goals of Femeconomy not only to other women in business, whose stories feature on the blog, but also consumers.
“It’s also really meaningful, engaging content because people want to know their stories,” said Alanna.
“The traditional path to leadership is actually quite a linear and often male path and if you read our female leaders’ stories every single one of them is so different – every one of them – so it just goes to show that that no matter what your life situation or industry you can progress in different ways.”
Using Twitter is also key to their marketing strategy.
“Obviously social media is really important,” Alanna said.
“One of the best things we’ve found is Twitter Live events.
“When we go to different things Jade will actually post different quotes and things of people who are speaking. Then it (a) amplifies the message of the female leader speaking but it’s also giving something back to our audience, as we take them on that journey with us.”
Yve Lavine Photography
Sydney-based photographer, Yve Lavine, was inspired by the BBC 3 documentary series, Amazing Humans, to use her skills to help women disadvantaged by circumstances to re-enter the workforce.
After watching an episode about a young tattoo artist who was helping people who had self-harmed cover their scars, Yve set out to help women who were doing it tough to get back to work or start their own business.
She decided to donate her services to help single mums, those with limited income or those escaping domestic violence to help present themselves professionally, with professional photographs they might otherwise be unable to afford.
Using her business Facebook page to also promote the project, Yve contacted Sydney’s Dress for Success, a charity that provides free professional clothing, career development tools and support for women in need, offering her services.
“I’ve always wanted to do stuff which is helping other people and I’ve always been involved in some way, shape or form with community equity and stuff like that,” said Yve.
Yve provides one free portrait shoot a month. Check out her Facebook page for more details.
Business consultants, Lisa Brincat and Elianne Oei, of Ambitious Mamas and Tipping Point Consultant are on a mission to help ‘ambitious mamas’ start and manage successful businesses of their own.
Both women come from a background of working for Big 4 firms. But, after having children they realised they wanted to create a business that allowed them to work on more family-friendly terms – and help other mums at the same time.
They explain how Ambitious Mamas came about:
“We’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly of businesses and have come to understand and see quickly what makes a business tick.
“The rat race is very well known to us, and we got tired of the hamster wheel…..This experience and our internal drive to do more and do better (especially after our children came into the picture), brought us to start working together in this business.”
“After I had my children I felt quite isolated,” said Lisa.
“ I’d go to playgroups and people were wanting to talk about babies all the time and I was like ‘I want to talk about other stuff. I want to talk about what’s going on in the world and what’s happening in business and what are the latest trends in leadership’ and all that kind of stuff.
“I wanted to get a group of likeminded women together and that’s where Ambitious Mamas was started,” she said.
With young children close in age, Lisa and Elianne teamed up to offer consultancy and training to other business women, typically working with women similar in background to themselves – plenty of professional skills, who wanted to balance using these with the realities of a young family.
They help with idea formation, business planning and developing the financial and other skills necessary to run a successful business.
Lisa also believes that attitudes to money can have a big impact on how women see themselves and their business. She explains more in the video below.
Their main role, however, said Lisa, is to be a cheer squad for the women they work with.
“All of the women that we work with are resourceful – we just help them come up with ideas to bridge any gaps.
“That’s the reason we do what we do – to cheer other women on.
“We don’t think that they can’t do it; we think the opposite. And whatever energy we can give them, we do, to help them in that direction.”
Lisa and Elianne are active on LinkedIn and in Facebook groups and use these and video to engage with their target audience.
Next week, hear from founder of Share the Dignity, Rochelle Courtenay, as Share the Dignity gears up for its April #DignityDrive, its twice-yearly coordinated campaign encouraging the donation of sanitary items.
You’ll also meet founder of the So Brave Breast Cancer Calendar, Rachelle Panitz.
Know any businesses that inspire you?