The face of entrepreneurship is increasingly female. It’s an awesome trend I’m seeing play out not only here, inside Xero, but also in the wider business community.
According to a recent EY report, women around the world are outpacing men when it comes to launching new businesses. Today, about 126 million women are operating new enterprises across 67 countries around the world.
And they’re creating jobs, too. At least 48 million female entrepreneurs and 64 million female business owners employ one or more people in their companies.
Seeing inspiring female entrepreneurs take their rightful place in the workplace has required a fair amount of fight and determination. And it’s happened because a bunch of strong women have chosen to participate.
It’s also good for business. Data shows diverse teams are, more often than not, higher performing teams.
To celebrate Women’s Entrepreneur Day, I wanted to take a moment to call out several of the inspiring women here at Xero who act with purpose and lead from the front.
Jade Shearstone, Planning Manager for Product
Jade works within our business and with industry initiatives, including the NZTech Women event series, to increase opportunities for women on our teams to network and ensure they have a voice in the wider community.
She also works with some of our fantastically talented female grads (pictured) who are in technical roles at Xero to encourage and support them to step up as role models for the next generation entering the workforce.
“Technology is changing the business landscape, enabling more flexible working arrangements, and lowering the barrier to starting your own business. I think more women are feeling empowered to take their ideas and make something of them.”
Jade’s advice for other entrepreneurial women, “Embrace what’s uniquely you. The most successful women I have met have fully embraced who they are, rather than constructing an ideal of what they think the business world requires them to be. They are the most inspirational, approachable and personable leaders.”
Genny Stevens, Agile Team Facilitator for Auckland Product Team
Genny is a mentor to several of our female graduates here at Xero, she’s also involved in our Women in Tech group and leads an initiative which helps women tell their story by empowering them to speak up at events, in the workplace and in the wider community.
Genny’s work gives us all stronger voices and visibility and I hope it will inspire more women to step up, lean in and speak up so the old voices wanting to maintain the status quo are drowned out.
“My position on women in business is we shouldn’t really still be having to talk about it. So let’s look at it this way: why would an organization consider itself healthy if its business does not accurately reflect the world it’s doing business in?
“There’s a feeling out there we are at a tipping point for significant change. Organizations who aren’t adaptable will struggle with this shift. To make change there needs to be an understanding there is more than one way of doing things and make space for us all at the table – including men and women from different ethnicities, age groups and experience. The tech sector is a highly creative, out of the box thinking type of industry, if anyone can think of different better ways to change the workplace, it’s us!
“Women just need to keep being awesome, keep empowering yourself, stepping up, giving others a hand up, and doing everything we can, together.”
Jackie Ward, Vice President of People Experience, USA
As head of Human Resources in the US, Jackie has strived to create an office environment where women can thrive. She’s done this by making it very clear everyone has the same opportunities available to them.
She’s worked hard to lead from the front and consistently makes time to help, develop and support all our teams.
“I was fortunate to have people invest time in my growth and I’m all about paying it forward,” Jackie told me recently.
Part of her success is her stance on not focusing on gender. Rather, Jackie focuses on an individual’s talent, passion, beliefs, interests and successes.
Melanie Power, Head of bookkeeping
Leading bookkeeping here are Xero, Melanie Power is all about keeping it real. She’s watched the rise of women in the workplace and runs on the ethos that we can’t do it all, there’s always an opportunity cost.
Melanie has always been involved in small business and has juggled working demands with the responsibility of raising a family.
“It’s about looking at ourselves and ascertaining what our priorities are in life and using these as the foundation to build forth our business culture and life from. Transparency, authenticity and tenacity are three keys things any woman in business needs to have in her toolbox. It can all fit together, we just have to create the entire puzzle and build it to completion,” Melanie told me recently.
“We are seeing more and more women relax into simply being a woman in their own business, and owning the femininity of this, being confident, transparent and allowing their own personality to shine through into the culture of their business. This is so engaging and real and is very inspirational! Nothing better than reading a story of a woman in business that shares the elation of her triumph’s but equally the lows of her tribulations. Realism at it’s finest.”
“A lot of change is happening but a really big push is the Inspiring Rare Birds that Jo Burston in Australia is heading up. This has become a global movement, showcasing entrepreneurial women. The hastag #ifshecanican is all about women helping women. It’s something I am quite passionate about seeing this movement continue to grow!”
Sue Pak, NZ Education Director
Taking a seat on Women’s group Fantail Network’s advisory board, Sue Pak’s goal is to inspire women to build business confidence and business networks.
Sue is passionate about supporting women of all ages and mentoring them in their career journey. She operates pop-up groups for entrepreneurial women to share stories and inspire members to step outside their comfort zone, surround themselves with the right people and become equipped to embrace change.
“Research proves that the best teams are made up of a diverse range of people, where difference in gender, age and culture brings extra value and insights to the table.”
“But, some women focus on things they can’t do. A woman may be ready for the next step, however, she may lack the confidence to apply. A good example of this during my time at Xero was when a female walked into an interview for a management role . She pulled out the job description and pointed to three highlighted points and said “these are the things I’m concerned about, I haven’t had experience in these areas”. I immediately stopped her and said, ‘“let’s start again”. The story ended well. I employed her and she says that was a turning point for her to focus on her many strengths and remember to back herself.”
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