FAI women innovation sml'Innovation' is one of those terms that that seem to be the flavour of the month at the moment and you see it used in many different contexts in business, government and education. But is it being used in the true sense of the word? The Oxford dictionary defines innovation as the introduction of new things, ideas or ways of doing something. So it’s not just about tech developments and the next Google or Facebook – it is about doing something (anything!) differently. Women often feel that what they do isn’t innovative because it doesn’t involve cutting edge technology or coding; how wrong they are.

The conversation around innovation is also changing; its no longer just about product and technological innovation, it is also about value innovation. This focuses on using strategies and techniques to make you stand apart from your competition – and its not based on price. That however is the subject of another article. So where do women fit into all of this?

In 2018, around 34 percent of Australian businesses are owned by women. According to a number of surveys there has been a 7.6% increase in the number of female business owners over the last decade compared to a 0.3% increase in those owned by males. There has always been a lot of debate around what motivates women to start businesses and funny enough it’s not that different to what motivates men. These days’ women start businesses because of dissatisfaction with work, unemployment or underemployment and the need to generate income. But women also aim for autonomy and independence, the ability to work around children and family responsibilities, personal satisfaction and achievement.

The key difference between men and women in business is the core motivation – in most cases women want to create a legacy whether it be for their family or a cause. Lighthouse has been running the ACT Microcredit Loan Program for 6 years and around 75% of our recipients are female. Of our recipients, older women want to leave something for their families while our younger recipients want to work around family and give them opportunities that they may not have had, and our youngest recipients just want to make a difference.

Women tend to start businesses in industries including retail, personal services, hospitality and consulting. A small percentage of businesses focus their efforts on scientific and technology-based industries. Many of the sectors women work in are traditional industries with long histories - so being innovative and doing things differently is central to survival.


About Lighthouse Business Innovation Centre
Lighthouse has a strong track record of supporting entrepreneurs, researchers and inventers on the path from concept to commercialisation. Since July 2008, Lighthouse has worked with over 990 distinct enterprises and provided group and peer based services to over 3400 enterprises and individuals. For over five years Lighthouse has successfully delivered business advice, education, mentorship and networking opportunities to help these businesses commercialise their ideas and grow their companies. Lighthouse also delivers programs such as the ACT Microcredit Program for the ACT Government. Visit www.lighthouseinnovation.com.au for more information.