Impact! Women In Social Enterprise: Panel Discussion

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On April 6, IMPACT! Social Enterprise hosted its first 2018 event, in conjunction with Visible Ink Youth Space and IMPACT Boom. IMPACT! Is a youth run organisation educating youth on social enterprise methods. Held at Visible Ink, a sold-out crowd engaged with a Women in Social Enterprise panel and Q & A. The night produced interesting debate around the use of language, intersectionality and lived experiences.

The audience heard from Mikhara Ramsing, Nicole Dyson and Edda Hamar as they shared their experiences  in the panel discussion moderated by Olivia Roney, as well as Anisa Nandaula’s incredible slam performance. Listen to the podcast or find highlights of the panel below.

Impact! And Impact Boom would like to thank Visible Ink, especially Kelly Cruse for getting this event off the ground as a part of #YouthWeekBNE and allowing a platform for women in the social enterprise space to thrive.

 

The Panelists

Nicole Dyson, Co-Founder Future Anything, Director of Future Learning at Education Changemakers, Founder of MAYK.

As a former head of department and head of year at some of Queensland's top performing public schools, Nicole Dyson has repeatedly led the design and implementation of whole school curriculum change to support future ready learning. Nicole is passionate about every learning experience for every young person in every classroom having a transparent and powerful link to the real world that exists beyond the school gates. As the Director of Education Change Makers, she is a globally recognised expert and practitioner in project based learning and student entrepreneurship.

She is the Founder of MAYK, an award winning curriculum aligned education program for high school students. In 2018 MAYK will engage almost 700 Queensland students in the role of entrepreneur, conceiving in excess of 200 innovative, scalable, sustainable solutions that make a difference in the world and for humanity. Nicole is also the founder of Future Anything, an online tutoring and learning platform and a contributor to FYA's Ylab program. Nicole describes herself as a sometimes writer and has travelled and worked across the globe in a range of industries.

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Edda Hamar, Founder Undress Runways, Co-Founder Lána.

Edda Hamar followed her passion for sustainability and ethical standards in the fashion industry and founded Australia's largest sustainable fashion runway show, Undress Runways. At the moment, she's running an online clothes rental platform, Lana. Users from across the world can rent their clothes on Lana for profit and you can pick up the perfect outfit for that special occasion.

Edda was named as a UN Young Leader of the Sustainable Development Goals and was selected as the 2013 Young Social Pioneers by the Foundation for Young Australians and the 2015 Foundation for Young Australians Young Changemaker of the Year. Edda and her team was selected among Brisbane's top emerging social entrepreneurs as part of the Elevate+ Accelerator Program run by Impact Boom, and last week Forbes named Edda in their 30 Under 30 to Watch in the Arts for Asia.

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Mikhara Ramsing, Founder, Ground Chai, Ethnic LGBT+, Global Sisters National Lead.

Mikhara Ramsing is a 27 year old social entrepreneur from Brisbane. She runs two social enterprises in the youth mental health space, Ground Chai, which sells chai to the public to fund enterprise skills workshops for rural schools in Australia and Ethnic LGBT+, which is Australia is only free national website, providing support, education and mentoring for culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) LGBT plus individuals.

Mikahra is recognized by the Foundation for Young Australians (FYA) as a Young Social Pioneer and is personally recognized by Jan Owen as one of the 10 Change Makers to Watch for 2018. She was awarded the New South Wales Young Achiever for 2017, and was one of 10 Westpac Social Change Fellows for 2018 and one of five ASEAN Australian Emerging Leaders announced by the Australian Federal Government. She firmly believes stories saves lives, and has travelled around Australia in a self built tiny home connecting with rural and regional youth to empower their voice in creating a more inclusive Australia. She also sits on Australia's LGBT+ philanthropy board, The Channel, and later this year will be travelling around Indo-Pacific to conduct an international tour of connecting (CALD) LGBT+ leaders around the world.

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Olivia roney, Contributing Editor at Impact Boom, Chief Legal Officer for IMPACT! Social Enterprise, Co-Founder The Unknown Project.

Olivia Roney is a Contributing Editor at Impact Boom. She is passionate about empowering and agency-driven projects and social enterprises that create sustainable and tangible impact. Olivia is the Chief Legal Officer for IMPACT! Social Enterprise, working alongside other motivated young changemakers to make social enterprise accessible to school and university students Australia-wide and is also midway through her Law/Economics degree at the Queensland University of Technology.

In 2017, Olivia Co-Founded The Unknown Project, a Brisbane based social enterprise working to connect young people from refugee and asylum seeker backgrounds with resources and opportunities. The Unknown Project operates a ‘blind-date with a book’ bookshop -  seeking to address racial stigma and discrimination. Partnered with The Romero Centre, all of the profits go towards funding education resources for young people from these backgrounds. In 2018, The Unknown Project was named amongst Brisbane’s top emerging social entrepreneurs in the Impact Boom Elevate+ Accelerator Program.

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Highlights from the Event

(listen to the podcast for full details)

[Olivia Roney] - We won’t see gender parity for over 200 years (World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report 2017).

- 16 percent of founders worldwide are women (Crunchbase Data Study 2015) though slightly better in Australia, at about 24 percent (Startup Muster Report 2015).

- The OECD ranks Australia as number two in the world for female entrepreneurship and that's second only to the USA.  Global Women Entrepreneur Leaders Report 2015).

- 45 percent representation of women in social enterprise((Global Entrepreneurship Monitor 2015 to 2016: Special Topic Report on Social Entrepreneurship).

- The Skoll Foundation estimates that the social not for profit space, which obviously has boundless overlap with Social Enterprise is 70 percent female. The Skoll Foundation Advancing Women Social Entrepreneurs Strengths and Challenges.

-  Of the School for Social Entrepreneurs Australia's 250 fellows around 70 percent of women (ING Encouraging Female Entrepreneurship in Australia).

- Around one third of board positions on social enterprises are held by women compared to only one quarter in mainstream businesses (The Victorian Social Enterprise Mapping Project 2017).

So how do we harness this collective energy into tangible social outcomes? Which of the hundreds of different paths can we take to running our own successful social enterprises and what resources are already out there to help us on our way?

In a recent interview for Impact Boom Professor Jo Barraket, Director of the Centre for Social Impact suggested that female millennial entrepreneurs have an amazing facility to see latent value in discarded resources, which includes people, waste and discarded physical premises, at turning their head sideways and seeing value in something no one else can see value in - and finding a business model to extract that value.

Edda, there is a huge jump from seeing those discarded resources and turning that into a sustainable, scalable and impactful business model. How have you been able to navigate tying together meaningful social outcomes and profit? What's the secret to a happy marriage between a social problem and a consumer one in your experience? [8:01]

[Edda Hamar] - I think I feel like I've got three different answers to the different parts of the question. Just to give you a little background from the jump from Undressed Runways into Lána was the jump from running a fashion show that promoted sustainable and ethical designers into a technology space where I have a team and we have a website. So we were really working in a much more scalable business model that can scale globally, whereas with the runway show we were really working locally. We took the runway show from Brisbane to Sydney and Melbourne, but we were held back by our ability to create a global impact. And I think that's where the motivation came from to produce or to start Lána, which is a peer to peer platform for clothing rental. It was this frustration with creating local impact, and being able to see the impact that we had locally in Australia and actually wanting... 

we were super motivated about just tearing down fast fashion retailers. That's what we set out to do. That's not a healthy business model for society and so that was the motivation.

We were like, 'let's do sustainable fashion so no one has to buy fast fashion' and seven years later people were still buying fast fashion. So we were like, 'well, maybe it's not working, maybe we need to take a different approach.' And yeah, I mean I would always recommend the most sustainable way to find a new outfit to borrow something from a friend. So that led onto this concept of sharing. Why can't we just share everything we have and then pairing, sharing up with a profitable outcome, because you can't just live off air, which we discovered at Undress, which didn't make a lot of money.

We thought, 'we've got to figure out a model which actually pays our bills so we can keep working on it as well as having this social impact.'

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Edda can you tell us how we can join Lána? [10:08]

[Edda] Yeah, it's free and super easy. Just jump on the website lana.global and you can sign up and create what we call a virtual wardrobe. And from there you are welcome to list any items of clothing that you might have in your wardrobe. It could be something you never wear. It could be something special that you spent a lot of money on and you wish other people could wear it as well and maybe make some money back on it. And then there's the other side that if you need to borrow something, be it an evening gown or a jacket you can tap into that for four days or a week or even 21 days.

Mikhara, in your experience with Ground Chai and Ethnic LGBT+, how much does this experience that Edda touched on, differ from the findings that you wrote about in your thesis which was around Social Entrepreneurship in the context of the greater economy? [10:51]

[Mikhara Ramsing] - I did my economic thesis in social entrepreneurship and unsurprisingly the theory often differs from the practical and actually being a social entrepreneur. My thesis was built on the work of Joseph Schumpeter who's an Austrian economist and he's most famously known for this idea of creative destruction, which in innovation is this idea of innovation destroying industries as much as it's creating job industries. And that's something we really see in the 21st century really accelerated by technology. And at the heart of the creative destruction process is the entrepreneur, the individual who innovates with existing resources to create new opportunities and in the process destroying old opportunities.

And I built on that, this idea of a social entrepreneur. So my thesis was posited around this idea that social entrepreneurship would even be a greater catalyst for innovation in the sense of people donating to a charity or not for profit. Why don't you use those same funds for someone who is so bent on the same social value, but also has a business model so that money is being reinvested and redistributed. In theory, looking at a macroeconomic level that seemed to work when I did the math but in reality, I think the Australian ecosystem, we're at the very beginning in that sense. And when I look to our counterparts and I look at more developed social entrepreneurship spaces, so Estonia, Israel are really interesting to watch - Europe, America, we still don't see that happening to that extent. And that doesn't surprise me either.

I think it's a big mind shift to go from a really well established not for profits who do some incredible work and they have their role to play to this idea of social entrepreneurship. And I think the biggest barrier we face in that space is people just not understanding what social entrepreneurship is. And if you don't understand something and that label is not well defined, then it's hard for us as human beings to progress and trust. If you don't have trust, then it's hard for progress. In my personal lived reality, on a more micro level, I still see those macro trends at play, you know, I positioned my economy in these global trends of digitisation, which we all experience on the day to day. Globalization, not in the sense of the physical movement of labor, but the fact that I can access skills from the Philippines, from Bangladesh, from my ASEAN counterparts above me; the 620,000,000 minds above us, our closest neighbours, and there's so much skill and resources there that we can access by virtue of the internet and also collaboration.

Moving away from this notion that you need one full time stream of employment from a job, to the reality for a lot of our generation; 15 year olds entering the workforce as they progress is many jobs making up their primary income. So I still see those mega trends playing out in my day to day life, running two social enterprises consulting as many sources of income and accessing skills globally, which is just incredible. I mean, there's so much strength in numbers and when you have a global collaborative pool to play with, then change happens even quicker. So that's probably the main differences.

Can you tell us a bit about the operation of both of your enterprises [Ground Chai & Ethnic LGBT+]? [14:09]

[Mikhara] - I'm a law and economics by background and had the great opportunity to work in Deloitte Access Economics in Sydney for a bit and I wouldn't change it. It was really great being part of that corporate culture to understand how it worked and also having the resources invested in me, but I always felt like I wasn't making the impact I wanted to make. And so I left Deloitte, about a year ago and my partner and I moved to Byron Bay because that's what you do when you don't have a full time job in Sydney. It was a great culture to move to because it was a place where people were really resourceful and it was such a supportive community to innovate and think differently, but it was hard. I went from the support systems of school to university to a corporate and I was always surrounded with teams and people.

When you start off as an entrepreneur, it's pretty lonely, you know, you're not surrounded by a community straight away, you have to really seek that.

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I was so used to having people around me and sitting with that I was really passionate about youth mental health. I thought it was ridiculous having grown up in South Africa to live in this incredibly privileged country in so many senses and then have the biggest killer of people under 34 being suicide. I really wanted to make an impact in that space. So I started these two social enterprises. One was really personal, Ethnic LGBT+. I had gone through this incredible 10 year journey with my parents. You know, I'm in part of a big loving Indian family of six, so I'm the oldest of four kids - we're all really close and my parents left everything in South Africa to give us a better life. In that journey, I was also coming to understand my own sexuality and wanting to bring them on into who I am as a gay South African, Indian, Australian woman.

I realised I wasn't alone. One in five people in Australia are from a migrant background, 11% of youth identify as being sexually or gender diverse and I couldn't see myself when I accessed resources in the LGBT space. I couldn't see my Indian parents in them. I couldn't see me. And when I look to my Indian community, I couldn't see LGBT+ resources. So I just started literally sitting at our kitchen table, a blog and just put my story out there and the letter I'd actually wrote to my parents to tell them that they didn't have a choice in not being a part of my life. This is who I am and I will bring them along with me. They will be there at my wedding, (which is legal now, which is fantastic!), and they will be there for these special moments. And in light of the political debate that was happening at the time and you know, the plebiscite to the marriage equality debate that really skyrocketed because it was accessing a community that was left out of the conversation.

Through that I got to do some fantastic work with FYA, partner up with Westpac and we just started writing a whole lot of resources first in a language that culturally and linguistically diverse communities can understand. I mean, can you imagine my Indian grandparents getting a post in their mailbox just with one line? Should Same-sex couples be allowed to marry? There's no context around that. It's in a language that they don't even speak. I mean, what do you do with that? So that took up a lot of time and I'm really proud now that it's gone to a point where it's reached over a thousand people internationally, but we now have funds to really grow that to a new level. So if you know members of the community who want a point of report, jump online, just google Ethnic LGBT+ let them know they're not alone, that they have a safe place to share their story.

Ground Chai came along because I love making chai. It's my grandmother's recipe and it's a point of connection for my family and I, and those were the conversations that we would have around a cup of chai. When I think about youth mental health, I think the biggest impetus to that is a feeling of disconnect. And so I wanted to focus on connection. So I started making chai in Byron Bay, which is not uncommon. My background is I got to work with a whole lot of cool young people as I was in university and we'd run leadership programs, taking young people to Climb Mount Kilimanjaro to Everest Base Camp. There was such a disconnect though from these young people coming from very city-based private schools to then rural public schools. And I wanted to make a difference in that space.

So I would sell the chai to the Byron Bay community and fund these skill workshops for young people in rural Australia. The level of poverty that exists in rural Australia really surprised me. That's coming from someone who grew up in South Africa.

Wilcannia in northern New South Wales, has one of the lowest adult mortality rates in the world on par with a village in Africa. People live till 37 there and that's in our back yard. So there's a huge role we as cities have to play in helping distributing resources better.

So if you're keen to support Ground Chai, buy some great, amazing chai, I'll send it to you, I'll show you how to make it. Those funds go to funding skill workshops for rural schools. So I went around Australia and set up a train the trainer model with 72 rural communities and those funds go into supporting them to deliver content because I believe it should come from a community in order to be sustainable.

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A little bit earlier, you touched on the jump from Deloitte. Do you remember a particular turning point? [19:12]

[Mikhara] - Just being in an office everyday! It definitely was something in the back of my mind. In fact the Impact! Conference in 2014 was a catalyst for me. I was very involved in the not for profit sector and suddenly I saw this as a viable way to make sustainable change. Where I could earn a living but also work for a social value cause. And I knew then that's what I wanted to be and was really fortunate and privileged that I could make that jump. So early on in my career it was definitely something I feel was in my blood.

[Mikhara talks about coming from a family of entrepreneurs.]

One of the great strengths of the social enterprise movement is this immense opportunity for collaboration as we see that united under common banners of social causes. It sets us apart from for-profit firms vying for top spot in the marketplace. Knowing this and in the broader context of women empowering women, what are the advantages of female centred design in this space? [20:39]

[Nicole Dyson] - I think there's a lot, but I also think there's a danger in it. I really touch on what you said about the power of language and when we use the phrase social enterprise or social entrepreneurship, I do think we create a niche market that takes away from the power of profit, and the reality full entrepreneurship, whether it be social or otherwise, particularly for social entrepreneurship is the more money that that company makes, the more good that company does.

And so I feel like the drive needs to be towards this model of business where we're looking at business for good or, or purpose-driven business.

I don't think that we should be caught up too much in the language of social entrepreneurship or social enterprise. If you look at somebody like Elon Musk who is doing incredible work in the world to create traction in spaces that are doing good, nobody would describe him as a social entrepreneur.

To come back to that, I don't think we should be fearful of for-profits at all.

And I don't think that we should create this separation in this space where we define ourselves as these, charitable spaces that don't make money, because the reality is that the more money that Lána makes, and the more money that your two social entrepreneur spaces make, the greater the good impact is for people that you're trying to affect, and the greater the sustainability for clothing that's created.

As far as from a female point of view, I also think there's a danger in an 'us and them' space where we create a thing where we say that women are better at social entrepreneurship.

I don't think that's the case at all.

I think the language and the conversation needs to be around how do we innovate and create businesses that are driven towards good for humanity, and good for our world. And whether they're led by women, or whether they're lead by men, whether they labeled social enterprise, whether they labeled not for profit, whether they labeled for profit. I don't think any of that matters. I think it's about the 'why' that sits behind the business and the human and the purpose that's leading that.

So I challenged some of our 'us and them' and our for-profit and no-for-profit spaces and, and think about who are the people sitting in these chairs and why are they driving change and what positive impact, and not worry so much about whether they're for-profit or not-for-profit, whether they're social enterprise or not, or whether they're driven by men are driven by women, but looking at empowering all business to be driven towards good.

This is a great segue then, because at IMPACT! we talk a lot about this concept of hero-preneurship and it's this idea that while the founder can be a main actor of social progress, it could be argued that this can detract from the social goal or the message. So rather than inundating the sector with new ideas and new enterprises that require momentum and have barriers to entry, how feasible is it that we reform and reinvigorate existing systems, industries and processes? [23:22]

[Nicole] - From a personal perspective, I actually think there are two key determinants for a successful business. Whether we look at for-profit or not-for-profit or social enterprise or otherwise, and I think it comes back to two things.

One, do you have a lived experience that's driven this business that you're trying to launch and two; does it link to something that you're super passionate about.

  Anisa Nandaula  performing her slam poetry.

Anisa Nandaula performing her slam poetry.

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This is a great segue then, because at IMPACT! we talk a lot about this concept of hero-preneurship and it's this idea that while the founder can be a main actor of social progress, it could be argued that this can detract from the social goal or the message. So rather than inundating the sector with new ideas and new enterprises that require momentum and have barriers to entry, how feasible is it that we reform and reinvigorate existing systems, industries and processes? [23:22 continued]

We look at the concept of hero-preneurship and it's because I think the entrepreneur or the person that's driving the business is actually too far away from the purpose that sits within the business. So working with young people, we actually start and MAYK for example, now sits on a four-phase model when we work with these 14 year old kids and we ask them.

The first thing that we ask them to do is actually who are you? Let's look at self like what matters to you. What do you like, what do you dislike, what are you passionate about? And then the next phase that we're moving into is, 'let's look at the world', so it's know yourself and then it's know your world; what exists around you. How can you link something that you're passionate about or something, a lived experience that you've had to a problem that might affect other people that you see in your world. And so I think that if you have those two things that are embedded deeply within the business model, either a passion or lived experience and I think that it's almost impossible to have hero-preneurship sit within that, because it's not about you anymore. It's about the problem. And it's about the passion that's about the lived experience.

Tell us a bit about MAYK. [25:12]

[Nicole] - It started from an education point of view. One of the things that I'm deeply passionate about is we have all of these young people sitting in classrooms every day. As an educator myself, I remember distinctly a moment where two year nine boys, (bless their cotton socks) said to me, why are we doing this? And I'd kept them back at the end of the lesson because they'd wasted time in class. And my rule was always, 'well, whatever time you waste in my lesson, I'm going to take from your lunchtime.' And so they were fixing up work that they'd done that they'd missed because they'd been mucking about in class. And one of the boys said, he started the sentence with, 'I don't mean to be rude, but,' and if you've ever worked with young people, that's a precursor for something going horribly wrong in the next spot. That sentence, nothing good comes at the end of that. He said, 'I don't mean to be rude, but why are we doing this.' The reality was, in that moment, I had no answer for them. The work that I was doing was basically because it was a curriculum unit that I'd been asked to deliver. I wasn't deeply connected to the work. It was just something I had to do. And for that, that was a real moment for me where I looked at who I was and what I thought education could be and realise that I didn't ever want to sit in front of young people again and not have a response. Not have a justification for the why, because if I couldn't justify why, then why should they bother?

So what I started doing was working with curriculum units and flipping them.

A lot of the time in education, we don't have a lot of control over the what. The curriculum is set. We have a national curriculum but we do have control over the how , and so it's not about the subject matter itself, but it's in the delivery.

So I started doing a little work with curriculum units where we adjusted what the assessment task looked like to therefore make it contextual and real world, which provided that why for the young people. If they could see how it linked to the real world, then that answered the question for them. And the unit that we started with was a Year 9 English unit and the students looked at Indigenous perspectives and they delivered a monologue at the end of it. What we did was use those Indigenous perspectives as a platform to look at disadvantage and marginalisation more broadly. So what were the decisions that had occurred over a significant period of time that had caused our Indigenous people to be in the place that they were, for the inequalities that existed and the realities that were not just in our city Indigenous populations, but also in our remote and rural populations, and why that varied.

Instead of asking them to deliver a monologue in character, we had them come up with their own social enterprise concept that closed the gap for a marginalised group of choice. So it meant that they could connect to a cause or a people that mattered to them.

As soon as you give kids choice and voice, then you create the perfect platform for them to be engaged in the learning and see purpose in what they're doing.

So over the last three years, that's evolved. The first year it was 115 students in one school. Last year was 350 across the three schools. This year it's almost 750 across five schools. And we've changed the question a little bit in the sense that we now have students just to come up with sustainable, innovative, scalable solution that makes the world or humanity a better place, and the students will pitch them and each school runs a shark tank.

Then we run a grand final, which will be at Brisbane Powerhouse this year. We're actually crowdfunding all of those campaigns. All of the winners they'll actually launch in 2019. We embed the program within curriculum. So it's not a bolt-on, so kids don't do it as an after school. It's not something that affluent parents pay for their students to do from the right schools. It's something we embed within curriculum and it's embedded within English, Business, and we're also embedding it within pastoral care programs. And what the great thing is, it means that kids that maybe don't necessarily see business or entrepreneurship as something they want to move into get to experience that within another curriculum like English or pastoral care.

[Nicole talks about the first year that they ran MAYK].

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It's about having conversations with kids who are agents of change for causes that they care about. And too often adults often say that young people aren't engaged in this world or they don't care or they don't want to. But the reality is we make them voiceless by not giving them an opportunity to care.

Programs like MAYK, give kids the opportunity to tap into the stuff that they care about, the stuff that matters to them and empower them to be agents of change in their world. And what we need to be creating is an army of people like what we saw in the March For Our Lives in America. These incredible young people who stood up and went, 'you know what, no, enough is enough. I care about this and I'm going to speak up.' And if we have enough young people that deeply care about the things that matter to them and want to do good in the world, then we're all going to be OK.

We touched on this a bit earlier, the startup space and I wonder if we could reflect on how we can make that more inclusive for women reflecting on the Nomadic Thinkers in 2016. Edda, if you want to touch on this and tell us a bit about the space that you've started in recent months? [30:26]

[Edda] - I was in the fashion space, which is an awesome space as a woman. There's women everywhere, particularly in that small to medium size companies. Very supportive. And then jumping over into the tech industry. I so often find myself in situations where I feel like it's a bit of a boys club. I've identified a couple of things as a woman. As we all know, it's less inspiring I think going to a conference and only hearing men talk and I think sometimes they don't realise that.

It only really clicked with me recently. I'm like, 'Oh wow, I feel so much more empowered when I hear people that I can relate to, women in the same space.' So I said to this conference organiser, just this week... they planned this conference, down on the Gold Coast and it's just like a massive boys club. And I just had to point it out. It's a school conference, so it's going to be 50 percent girls and 50 percent boys. And I'm like, 'you know, the lineup looks great, but it actually is going to make a huge difference to the students if you involve more women in the program. Here's a list of 10 women and I actually put your name down [to Nicole]'.

So I think in terms of helping the space become more inclusive for women, it's just sometimes about reminding that organiser, 'Hey, it looks great, but how about we add more women to the program?'

It doesn't have to be a negative conversation. It can be quite a positive conversation. I really connected to those statistics that you read at the start of the evening about 16 percent of startups are female lead. Such an interesting industry to be in is this investment space where I feel like 99.9% of investors are men, because you know, I'm only pitching to male investors. When you look at the statistics, when you take it one step further out of that small percentage that is female lead, it's something like two percent of global VC funding is raised by women and the other 98 percent is raised by men and then you take it one step further and women actually have to give up a lot more equity for the same amount of money in in today's world.

I was actually at a selection bootcamp a couple of weeks ago. It's literally like a boot camp for your brain and they grill you with questions to test you and see if you can get into this thing that they call an accelerator. One of the guys that was running it literally said, 'when I put my investment hat on, I know I'm going to get a good deal if I invest in a woman because she's going to give up more equity than a guy.' And just with his real blasé investor hat on - 'it's a really good deal. We should invest in more women because it's a better deal', which is horrible.

I'm in a weird space where it's very innovative, and everyone thinks they're bleeding edge, but it's actually quite backwards when it comes to gender equality.

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Tell us about your startup space. [33:59]

[Edda talks about the co-working space she founded and what makes a good space].

Is that one of the barriers or challenges that you think would hinder women as a founder in this space? Or what are some of the challenges you've either personally faced or that you perceive in the space at the moment? [35:20]

[Edda] - I was chatting to someone from government, and I thought maybe he hasn't thought of this. I'm sure he has, but I decided to write a really long email just in case. And I wrote them an email and I said, 'yes, definitely keep putting money into female led businesses or supporting women.' And I don't think they have really. They haven't implemented the programs that are in the pipeline, but apparently there's lots coming. But for me, I was like, if I could pitch to women, if we had more women in the decision making space of OK, I'm going to fund what you're doing and help you scale globally. I thought maybe if we had more women at that level, more women would be more successful at the startup level. So that's what, that was my solution for the innovation.

[Nicole] - I think women, and we're talking a lot of gender stereotyping here, so I would like to apologise in advance for that. But typically, I know I can't count the number of conversations I've had with other women where when it comes up to asking for money, or looking for funding or investment, and we were talking about this only tonight - it's super uncomfortable.

There's something about asking for money or having to seek investment, particularly from a panel of guys that is really intimidating. 

And it is really alienating and you can believe in the passion and purpose and the value of your business and still be super challenged by sitting in that space and validating why you need that money, particularly when you're so deeply connected to what you're asking for money for. It's great to be coached, but finding women who can step into that space who are doing the coaching and who are sitting on those panels in charge of making those decisions around the money would go a long way to, I think making that more accessible, safe space for women to move into and pitch.

[Nicole talks about gender balance and inclusion on panels].

[Mikhara] - I think it just comes with the reality of working within a system that wasn't built by you or for you. As much effort and time and energy we put into girls enrolling into STEM, why are we not putting time and energy into boys enrolling into care? And this is more reflective of previous generations, you know, try to fit into the system, you know, change.

Whereas I think empathy is our biggest strength and biggest source of change and momentum and that goes forward.

I think something that's really not addressed in the startup space and when you're reliant on your own source of income and self employment is the reality of those wanting to start a family. Only the women can do that and there's no measures in place, at least to my knowledge, Brisbane, government wise, state or federal to support women social entrepreneurs who are in the phase of starting a family and the support that goes into that.

And that's why I think you see this huge drop off from a majority of women going through into the space but not reaching that VC level or that further level because suddenly responsibilities and roles change and biologically you go through this huge, massive shift and the system doesn't support you in that.

So I think that's an area we need to start the conversation more around to support, because that's one issue that specifically affects women. All women identifying. So another big barrier is language. And I wanted to explain that more, because it's really perverse in a lot of ways. When you talk about women and then intersectionality in women. So, you know, female identifying people as well. And when you talk about then women of colour being seen in that intersection, and if you think of it in terms of a pyramid, you know, and, as a cohort of women at the top, and I'm talking about this, was work done on the domestic violence space. At the top you have rape and murder and what you have at the bottom of this pyramid is so centred around language.

I mean, it starts with cat calling. It starts with words we use, to define and control and insult women. And it starts with equal pay. It all builds up this culture that it's OK to treat women in this way. So it's so important to be aware of that bigger picture and how small things at the bottom of this triangle keep leading up to a culture of it's OK to treat women like that. So I think you really have to address it at the very bottom and talk about more conversations about that.

My final question tonight for the budding social entrepreneurs in the room, what's one thing that you wish you had known or resources that you wish you had access to when you were first starting out? [41:24]

[Mikhara] - The biggest impact or influence that has been in my motivation and inspiration, is get a network of social entrepreneurs around you, get other people in the space doing it, get people who are chasing their dream as you are chasing your dream, because there's a lot of naysayers, there's a lot of fear. People have different whys.

Surround yourself with people who are on that same journey as you, because that's your biggest strength and source straight up, from getting your inspiration to your daily motivation, because it's a challenge. It really is hard at times, but what keeps you going, is when you see others doing it and you want to be part of that journey too. So I'd say support network was number one for me.

[Nicole] - Yeah, I definitely would echo that. Surrounding yourself with people that are going to be a supportive influence is, is super important.

I think it's really important to go on a journey of knowing yourself and what drives you and what matters to you and understand that really deeply and hold that really close to you and really tight.

As close as you hold that passion and that lived experience and that why close to you, hold your idea around a business really lightly and, and be open to people pulling it apart and giving you criticism and feedback on it and don't connect the two necessarily together. You can be deeply connected to your passion and your why and hold your business concept really lightly and allow that to evolve and pivot based on the feedback and experiences and conversations that you have with others. And I think that's what creates really sustainable, innovative, creative, interesting, impactful business models are the ones that are constantly moving and changing. They're still deeply rooted within the passionate, lived experience that started it, but the idea itself is held lightly enough that it moves with the need.

[Edda] - I think looking back to when I first began, if I had known to put my team as number one.

I think that having a strong team around you just makes all the difference.

The journey is definitely a lonely journey and I think the reason why I stuck with Undress for six years with zero pay was because I surrounded myself with a team that was in the same shoes. We were in it together and we could share all of the lows and all of the highs. Then moving into Lána, the workplace, the space, the physical space that we work in, the team. It's like it's keeping all of that healthy, keeping yourself healthy, keeping your team healthy because it's such a long journey. We started Lána in December and I'm buckling up for five, 10 years. This is not going to happen overnight. And I'm being prepared for that long journey and thinking,

OK, if I'm going to do this 10 years, how do I make sure that I can approach every day happy, enthusiastic, feeling balanced, feeling empowered, and having those people around you.

[Nicole] - That whole idea that self care isn't selfish. I think entrepreneurs are typically really rubbish at looking after themselves because it's all about the cause and the passion and the purpose and we forget that all of that stuff doesn't happen if you don't look after you. I took a day off and posted about it on Facebook and had 80 people like it and I had that millennial, 'lots of people liked it' feeling, and then also I was traumatised by the fact that 80 people thought it was such a brave thing for me to do, to take a day to myself. You need to listen to yourself and, I couldn't agree more; look after yourself and look after your team.

 

Impact Boom's next event is on May 31st at Brisbane Powerhouse. Reserve your spot to network with Brisbane's top, emerging social entrepreneurs. Follow us on Facebook so that you don't miss out on a ticket.

 

Initiatives & resources mentioned on the podcast

Elevate+ Accelerator Facts

  • 68% of Elevate+'s current cohort are women
  • 9 of our 20 presenters and mentors are women
  • How does that compare to other Accelerators you know about?
 

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