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Women’s fear of failure is hindering business potential: Study

A recent comprehensive study on the aspirations of Australian women in their 40s and 50s reveals a wealth of untapped potential.

The research, titled “The Untapped Potential of Entrepreneurial Women,” found that a significant number of women in this age group are eager to leverage their education, skills, and life experiences, which include raising children, changing careers, and navigating relationship challenges, to launch their own initiatives.

The study underscores that two out of three (63%) women aged 40-59 find the concept of running their own business highly appealing, with 64% of them having concrete business ideas. However, the report unveils a sobering reality: a staggering 78% of these women have not taken any action to turn their entrepreneurial dreams into reality. Financial concerns (83%), a fear of failure (81%), and a lack of confidence (78%) have been identified as the primary barriers, potentially causing missed economic opportunities.

According to Research Director Dr. Rebecca Huntley, successful startup founders are not exclusively young; international research suggests that they are often aged between 35 and 45. This finding challenges the stereotype that entrepreneurial success primarily belongs to young individuals in their 20s. It underscores that middle-aged and older individuals have a significant presence in the startup world and can achieve remarkable success.

In a move to encourage these potential entrepreneurs, the Council of Small Business Organisations Australia (COSBOA) has introduced “Enterprising ME,” a program supported by Commonwealth funding. It builds upon the success of the “Accelerator for Enterprising Women” initiative and offers four key components to empower and support female entrepreneurs at various stages of their journey.

COSBOA CEO Luke Achterstraat explains, “Enterprising ME is accessible and relevant for women at all stages, whether they are a young woman starting their career, a mother juggling family, career, and life, or someone with a seed of an idea but unsure how to begin.” The program provides online educational resources covering business basics, brand building, and financial management, acts as a networking platform, and offers virtual mentoring opportunities.

The key findings of the report include:

Desire for a better work-life balance and the opportunity to reclaim personal time.

High appeal of running their own business among women aged 40-59.

Vast majority (78%) have not taken any action towards entrepreneurship.

Notable interest among Indigenous (ATSI) women and culturally diverse backgrounds (CALD).

Main motivations include passion for their work (92%), flexibility (90%), and taking control of their future (87%).

Life events leading to entrepreneurial aspirations include career changes, children’s independence, and life transitions.

Key barriers to entrepreneurship: financial concerns, fear of failure, and a lack of confidence.

Desired resources: financial information, mentoring opportunities, and practical business skills.

The Enterprising ME research report is part of an $8.7 million project funded under the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet’s Women’s Leadership and Development Program, with a goal to equip and empower girls and women with the skills, mindsets, and communities needed to pursue entrepreneurship. 

 Information available via Young Women and Entrepreneurship Research Report 2023: 

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