Challenges for regional businesswomen

Women in Business Regional Network founder Carolyn Jeffrey said internet and childcare were top challenges for regional businesswomen.
Women in Business Regional Network founder Carolyn Jeffrey said internet and childcare were top challenges for regional businesswomen.

Poor quality internet and a lack of childcare and quality support are among the main challenges facing regional women in business in South Australia.

In a survey by the Women in Business Regional Network regional businesswomen were asked to identify the top challenges to the success of their business and what was holding back the economic growth of their region.

Network founder Carolyn Jeffrey said there was recognition among the women that businesses needed to have quality internet connections to survive and thrive.

"These days the internet is an essential tool for business, even if you don't use it to sell goods or services directly," Ms Jeffrey said.

"Accounting programs are cloud based, so many people use email and messaging to connect with businesses, and we need to also utilise online marketing channels such as social media to get our message out to the public.

"If you don't have reliable internet services businesses can face efficiency and accessibility problems which can either hamper growth or cost money."

Ms Jeffrey said despite the fact that women were making inroads in gender equality, the reality for most women was that they were also still expected or naturally still took on the roles of childcare and domestic responsibilities too.

"Many of our regional communities don't have the luxury of childcare centres due to the size of the population and their remote locations," Ms Jeffrey said.

"Although there is innovation being employed in some areas to overcome this issue such as RICE in the Far North of the State and innovations such as KidNest being trialled in Victoria, the fact remains many women in business in regional areas are juggling child rearing and small business ownership from home without access to the same services enjoyed by those in urban areas.

"The internet is playing an increasing role in providing opportunities for women to be able to establish enterprises while remaining at home with their children, but anyone who has tried juggling kids while on the phone with clients, or even online dealing with accounts, will know it's not an ideal environment to foster clear thinking and efficiency.

"Women in regional areas have had to develop resilience, but the reality is they can't do it all - family, business success, relationships and domestic duties - unless they have some reasonable support around them."

From a regional economic growth perspective a lack of population was identified as the biggest challenge with the internet and a lack of suitable staff not far behind.

"It is pleasing to see the State Government's renewed focus on trying to boost regional areas, including encouraging migrants into the areas where businesses are struggling to fill job vacancies," Ms Jeffrey said.

"While this is a great step, the regional communities will need to embrace some cultural changes to accommodate the new residents from overseas.

"As well as migration, it's vital governments also encourage decentralisation of the population through relocation of government services to the regions where possible and getting behind and even spearheading promotions of the wide range of benefits and opportunities of living and working in our regions."

The Snapshot of Women in Business in Regional South Australia survey also found more than half of the respondents were already selling goods or services online. More than 59 per cent of the respondents were also microbusinesses being operated by a single person.

The complete survey results can be downloaded from the Women in Business Regional Network website - www.wibnetwork.com.au.