We continue our series with Jodie Imam from SBE Australia who shares her views with Jenny Petering.

Please describe your role, and how your career has progressed to get you to where you are today?

I am the General Manager at SBE Australia. We are a small team supported by a big community to accelerate women-led businesses through programs and mentorship.

I started out in business development roles with global IT and telco corporations both in Sydney and London, after completing my commerce marketing degree. At 23 I had my first yearning to run my own business and decided to quit my lucrative job and start a radio production company with my then-boyfriend. When that didn’t work out I set out to explore the world of fashion and coincidentally met Leona Edmiston who was starting her second fashion business. I quickly became the General Manager and grew the business from 2 stores to 25 including stores in London, Los Angeles and Hong Kong. I had a joint venture for the Leona Edmiston online business which I built in 2008.

That experience gave me the taste for scalable tech businesses and with my husband, I started my own tech scale-up business. A marketplace for getting small jobs done around the home and office, Occasional Butler. We built the platform and community over three years and were acquired by Airtasker in 2014. In the first year of Occasional Butler we realised that building a marketplace takes a long time so we also founded depo8 coworking in a bid to keep us afloat, which thankfully it did. Depo8 is now almost eight years old and is a fantastic community of creatives, small businesses, and startups.

Since selling Occasional Butler, I have been an active mentor in the startup ecosystem with Innovation Bay, The Wade Institute and Startmate. I have been privileged to work with so many amazing founders and exciting new businesses.

If a gender equality issue was to occur in your industry or workplace, what do you think is the best way to address this?

In our workplace at SBE all employees are women and all of our customers are women. We do have one male on our board, Iain Dixon, and his perspective is invaluable. If anything, we need to embrace more males in our team. I believe that men play just as important a role in closing this gap as women and sometimes are even more proactive.

When issues arise at SBE we have a very fluid and responsive approach and generally address them at a board level, have an open and honest debate and then put policies and processes in place to prevent future occurrences.

In the broader startup ecosystem women still face inequality. It’s getting better but we have a long way to go. Here are just some of the current stats:

  • Only 3% of tech firms are founded by women yet they deliver 35% higher ROI than male-led firms.
  • Companies with a female founder perform 63% better vs all-male founders.
  • For every $33 of VC investment for male founders, a woman secures only $1.
  • Australian female founders represent 4% of all VC-backed companies (lower than US achievement).
  • If women and men around the world participated equally as entrepreneurs, global GDP could ultimately rise by approximately 3% to 6%, boosting the global economy by $2.5 trillion to $5 trillion.

At SBE our focus is often on improving access to credit (financial capital) or providing training to help women build new skills (human capital) — two areas critical for improving the success of women-led businesses. However, another key factor in the success of these businesses tends to be overlooked, access to networks.

*Information sources below.

“Collective individualism” is an important part of this year’s theme, why do you believe individualism is important for gender equality?

At SBE we are a diverse group of people with individuals providing a broad range of ideas, experience and values whether it be at the board level or on a practical day to day operational standpoint.

".....The success of SBE comes down to the power of our team to work independently and with a clear goal to accelerate women-led businesses."

An example of this independence and trust we instill in our team is happening at the moment. Our National Program Manager, Olivia Doherty is currently working from Washington DC for two months so she can spend time with her wife who is currently based there for her work. Olivia and I were able to carve out this time in the year where it wasn’t critical for her to be physically in the country and at the best possible time for the business whilst supporting Olivia’s personal life. It has worked out really well as she is able to work more closely with Springboard Enterprises team who are based in Washington ahead of our SBE by Springboard Enterprises Tech Program which starts in May this year.

How do you celebrate women in your workplace and/or throughout the SBE Australia program?

SBE Australia is a small organisation and we are all located in different cities so our physical team celebrations tend to coincide with major events. We celebrate as a team at the conclusion of a program or event. As a community it is our everyday mission to celebrate the women in our community and we do this through networking events, social media and marketing. During our programs, we are very focused on women supporting women by sharing our experiences and helping each other increase the confidence, knowledge and skills required to accelerate the growth of our businesses.

How do you motivate others to achieve gender equality?

As much as possible we share the successes of the women who have done our SBE by Springboard Enterprises programs. Collectively over the past seven years, they have raised over $458m with 2 IPOs and 6 exits. Globally Springboard Enterprises Alumnae have raised over $10bn in capital and a further $10bn in Mergers and Acquisitions. These women-led businesses are transforming industries, solving big problems and setting a fantastic example of what women can achieve when given the opportunity.


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