Anew survey on the experiences and aspirations of 323 Australian businesswomen highlights the achievements made by many in foreign markets, as well as the daunting challenges faced by those yet to venture abroad.
All the women surveyed by the University of Melbourne’s Sarah Gundlach and Andre Sammartino, in conjunction with the federal- state government Women in Global Business initiative, had key strategic decisionmaking roles in their organisations, and 186 owned their own business.
Of the business owners, 130 operated internationally, while almost all the employees worked in organisations that operated overseas. However, those running an overseas business demonstrated a significantly higher level of risk tolerance than their domestic counterparts.
The survey identified numerous barriers to internationalisation: • A lack of knowledge about potential markets and assistance programs. • The high cost of establishing foreign operations, the reluctance of banks or financial institutions to fund expansion and a lack of alternative sources of capital. • Red tape and logistical difficulties; finding suppliers or supply channels. • A lack of female role models, a lack of confidence in pursuing overseas opportunities or difficulty in managing family and/or caring roles.
Other barriers included strong overseas competition, risks related to exchange rates, political instability, mistrust, fear or non- acceptance of women in business dealings.
Among the respondents, the most common first expansion country was the US (14.2 per cent), followed by New Zealand (10.8 per cent) and then Britain and China (both 10.3 per cent). The US (20.8 per cent) and China (14.8 per cent) scored highest as the “most important overseas market or site for operations”.