A women’s advocate and mentor has outlined the tools female finance entrepreneurs require to thrive as leaders.
Business training key to empowering women in finance
Ahead of the inaugural Women in Finance Summit 2023, chief development officer at brokers’ association Finance Brokers Association of Australia (FBAA) Joanna James said while there is no dearth of professional development programs in financial services that focus on technical skills, programs for business owners are scarce.
“I think there are some wonderful opportunities for women within the finance industry,” Ms James told Accountants Daily.
“For example, women could explore becoming a mortgage broker in a large brokerage or even a business development manager (BDM) at a lender. This gives them the opportunity to build a business. It also gives them flexibility, especially if they move into motherhood.”
“Moreover, running a mortgage broking business can be very cost-effective. There’s absolute equality between men and women because it’s commission-based from lenders,” she said.
“Nobody is going to be getting any special favours. It’s a fabulous business model.”
Business operation a different kettle of fish
Becoming a business owner is laden with challenges, however, Ms James said, as it requires a different skill set separate from technical proficiency.
The advocate for women in business said there is a gap in education and training for entrepreneurs.
“I noticed that while there is a lot of technical education, mentoring programs for new brokers, and ongoing professional development days and conferences, there’s still a practical gap around being a hands-on business owner and making decisions on a daily basis,” Ms James said.
“How do you read your financials? How do you forecast cash flow? What employment legislation changes do you need to know? If you’re not outsourcing your compliance, how do you do that? How do you bolster your data and cybersecurity?
“How do you transition from being a sole operator to recruiting and managing a team? There’s a big difference between outsourcing your bookkeeping to employing staff in-house and paying their wages.”
She continued: “There’s a gap between how people are being introduced into the world of business and the reality of what they’re experiencing when they start operations.”
Ms James and a panel of speakers will unpack these issues at the Women in Finance Summit, and point to support systems businesswomen could lean on to thrive in financial services.
The Artemis Space
To support female business leaders, Ms James joined Artemis Space (delivered by brokers’ association the Finance and Brokers Association of Australia [FBAA]) to run its women’s community group.
The group facilitates honest discussions about the challenges professional women in the broking industry face and aims to find solutions through forums on specific areas of upskilling.
The first is via education on topics such as what business owners should consider at the end of each financial year, and what they need to review and be aware of for the following year.
The second and third areas relate to mastering communication – which is essential for business leaders – and building strong networks.
The program also focuses on improving soft skills, such as managing time and stress, the art of negotiation, and the ability to identify social cues and read clients.
“The Artemis Space offers a monthly session on a new topic,” Ms James said.
“We want women to have self-awareness around who they are as business leaders so that they can be better professionals.”
The value in advocating for yourself
Finally, the group recognised the importance of self-advocacy and building confidence in women to enable them to put themselves forward for new and senior roles, or for training programs that could expand their skill sets.
“We decided that we wanted to support women by teaching them how to advocate for themselves by getting that direct and tailored one-on-one support,” Ms James said.
The Artemis Space partnered with mentoring program provider Rare Birds and established a program where women are subsidised to participate in it. The professionals are matched with mentors who are business leaders outside their industry to provide them with a fresh perspective on how to navigate the challenges of being a business owner.
“Women wanted to learn to advocate for themselves. The best way to advocate for yourself is to have someone guide and teach you,” Ms James concluded.
To hear more from Joanna James on how the financial services industry could create an inclusive workplace that empowers women, come along to the Women in Finance Summit 2023.
It will be held on Friday, 10 November 2023 at The Star, Sydney.