The initiative is funded by the Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet Office for Women under its Women’s Leadership and Development Program.
The scholarships are specially designed and funded to support Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander women, women with disabilities, women who are migrants or refugees, or from low socioeconomic backgrounds, including in rural, regional and remote communities, with an established business. Their success will come from tapping into the deep experience and skills of some of Australia’s most-successful and best-known business leaders.
According to Jo Burston, CEO and Founder of Inspiring Rare Birds, the timing of this program has never been more-important: “We know we are creating a high-impact outcome when 92% of women selected for the scholarship have been affected by COVID-19.
“Now more than ever, the difference between ‘make or break’ can be a mentor with wisdom, experience and know-how to help these women navigate an uncertain business landscape. This could be the difference between not just surviving, but thriving professionally and personally.
“COVID-19 has also overshadowed an alarming statistic: the ECG chart for Australian small businesses shows a decline in the health of Australia’s small business sector.
“ASIC figures show that the number of new business registrations peaked as long ago as February-March 2018, and have been in a slow decline ever since – even before the economic knock-on effects of COVID-19.
“Concerns are growing that many small businesses may fold once stimulus packages change or end later this year: this program will help 90 female business owners power ahead.”
The value of the program comes from the quality of senior business leaders who will be its mentors. They include Jackie Watts, City of Melbourne Councillor, Corrina Bertram, Partner and Board Member KPMG, and Penny Burtt, CEO Asialink.
Penny Burtt, CEO AsiaLink, said: “Supporting women SME owners, entrepreneurs and startups around Australia is the right thing to do and vital for our economic recovery.
“Women are more vulnerable than men, with women’s jobs twice as likely to be under threat due to the pandemic.
“Having the opportunity to help give women business owners the confidence and skills to drive their businesses, including through tough times, matters to me. Their success can make a huge difference to their lives and our community as a whole.”
Corrina Bertram, Partner and Board member of KPMG Australia, said, “I am very excited to have the opportunity to mentor and also learn from inspiring women from a range of backgrounds as they progress their careers and businesses.
“Coming from a regional background myself, I am passionate about creating a level playing field of opportunity for women – regardless of where they come from. I am looking forward to the chance to work with Inspiring Rare Birds, support women in their development and pay back some of the wonderful mentorship I have had over my career to date.”