Whilst prudence is an essential ingredient to success in business, it is the aversion to risk taking that denies the world of more female entrepreneurs.
A variety of studies (KPMG Harvard Business Review) over the years point to the assertion that women are more risk averse than men. Research shows that the differences are amplified under stress; men are inclined to take more risk under pressure compared to women.
I spent the early part of my career as a commodity buyer and more than 15 years in the funds management industry. There weren’t many women negotiating beef prices or trading equities; at one investment conference, I was in a room with more than 100 investors and I was the only woman.
This environment, along with the rest of my career so far, taught me the following lessons in order to cut through and be successful.
Seize the opportunity
After exiting the fund management company I co-founded ten years ago, I spent some time investing in start-ups. I supported a number of entrepreneurs through Scale Investors, an alliance of high-net-worth female investors looking to put their capital in play with largely female-led businesses.
I met some fantastic women through Scale and felt humbled by their impressive achievements. It was in this world that I connected with Lauren Melton, my current business partner.
After backing several entrepreneurs, we decided it was time to take a risk and invest in ourselves. Together we co-founded Groundfloor, an Australian-first parcel management company.
Parcel delivery pains are a global phenomenon and we found there was no viable solution in Australia – here was an opportunity where we could make a real difference to the market.
With Groundfloor, we aimed to address the problem of missed deliveries by breaking down the entire journey. Having consulted with couriers, customers, facility managers and builders, we found the real challenge was in the last few metres of a delivery, from the kerb into the hands of the customer.
Through developing the Groundfloor business and technology, we have been parachuted into the increasingly male dominant worlds of manufacturing, software and property.
Lauren is an engineer, and like me, is used to operating in male-centric environments. But there’s no escaping the fact that the women we’ve come across in the industry have been particularly supportive. We haven’t quite been able to put our finger on why, but I suspect it might be as simple as human nature.
Our conversations with women tend to expand from business, to risk taking, investment, the world of entrepreneurship, families, kids and life. There’s an instant commonality that helps form a powerful bond.
Sometimes men are more comfortable around men and vice versa, but in 2019 that doesn’t necessarily have to be an obstacle. There are plenty of ways to circumvent our differences; you just need to pick your route.
I think Lauren and I became acutely aware of the gender difference not so much in the Melbourne and Sydney property markets, but in a minivan driving around China. We found our true confidence while slurping soup with eight men around a table followed by a rooftop tea ceremony. It’s all about finding common ground and breaking down the stigmas associated with gender.
Many women have asked us how we manage to juggle everything with six kids between us, how we we’re brave enough to take the risk and what the journey is like.
Women are more comfortable revealing their anxiety towards risk taking to other women than perhaps to the opposite gender.
What would a man do?
Occasionally, Lauren will say to me half in jest: “what would a man do right now?”. We have a laugh, then we broaden our perspective to include a different angle.
We all come with biases and our set of experiences, and this includes the gender lens.
To be truly disruptive, women need to be prepared to shake the status quo, challenge pre-conceptions and smash conventionally accepted approaches to business. Until this happens, we will never experience the true impact of female entrepreneurship.