Women exporters are now setting sights on China

Women exporters are now setting sights on China  article image

Australia’s female exporters do not fit the stereotype of young, brash entrepreneurs, but are mostly highly experienced baby boomers, a new report has found.

The report, Women, Global Trade and What it Takes to Succeed, also found that China is now the most important market for women in this group.

The report, the second from a five-year joint study by Women in Global Business (WIGB) and the University of Melbourne, also shows that Australia’s female exporters are very well-educated (78% hold a bachelor degree or higher).

After surveying 416 successful Australian businesswomen, the report found 62 percent of respondents were baby-boomers (50+ years of age). 

Half (50%) have worked overseas in previous organisations, typically for five or more years, often in the USA, UK, China or Singapore.

Australia’s women-owned businesses have already achieved significant success overseas, with the majority (51%) operating in five or more foreign markets, and a quarter in ten or more.

There is a strong appetite for further expansion with 74% indicating they are seeking to expand into new markets, and none intending to scale back their global reach.

The most common first locations for expansion by women-owned organisations were the US (14%), NZ (12%), UK (9%) and Japan (8%).

China has been on the rise in recent years, accounting for 13% of first entries in the past five years. Asia is by far the most common region for first expansion, up from 40% of firms who first went international five or more years ago to 47 percent of firms who began exporting within the past five years.

The big drops have been in Europe (down from 20% to 11%) and Oceania (20% to 13%).

Rise of China continues

The countries most frequently identified as the most important market were China (34%), the USA (23%), and the UK (7%).

China was more frequently cited as most important (36%) for the more experienced organisations (those operating internationally for over five years). China has jumped considerably since the first survey (from 18% to 34%).

This year, respondents were asked to nominate the most important region and Asia was ranked Number 1 by just over half (52%) the women.

Austrade CEO Bruce Gosper said the findings highlighted growing commercial opportunities in the region, especially following finalisation of landmark free trade agreements with Korea, Japan and China.

“Female-owned businesses are an expanding segment within small and medium enterprises and it’s important we better understand what helps them succeed as exporters,” Mr Gosper said.

“This research assists our knowledge about the role of women in exporting.”

Key success driver

Expanding overseas has been a key success driver for these women-owned businesses. Almost two thirds (62%) report sales growth of more than 10% over the past year.

Over a third (35%) report sales growth of more than 40%. These numbers are even higher for organisations that have expanded off-shore in the past five years, with 52% reporting sales growth of more than 40% in the past year.

Foreign sales growth of more than 100% was reported by 16% of the women-owned businesses.

Almost a fifth (19%) of the women-owned businesses also reported growth in employment numbers of 10% or more over the past 12 months.

The Women in Global Business (WIGB) program commissioned the five-year study to shed light on women’s growing contribution to Australia’s economy through international trade.

WIGB is a joint federal, state and territory government initiative.

Profile of Australian women exporters

  • 78% hold a bachelor degree or higher
  • 72% were born in Australia
  • 62% are over 50
  • 61% work more than 50 hours/week
  • 45% speak at least one other language
  • 42% have previously worked overseas
  • 37% completed management & commerce qualifications
  • 24% make 5+ business trips per year
  • 28% have children at home

A copy of the full report is available at:


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