Women entrepreneurs, it seems, are no longer interested in joining the ‘boys club’ when it comes to the business of networking. And why should they be, when they now have a League of their own?
Welcome to The League of Extraordinary Women, the largest and fastest-growing women entrepreneurship movement in Australia.
This should hardly be surprising, if we look at the statistics.
A 2010 report ranks Australia in first place in female entrepreneurship across developed nations* and it is estimated that there are over one million Australian women trading in their own businesses.**
The League holds regular events and membership benefits aimed at encouraging more women to take the plunge into their own business ventures.
Women can now connect, inspire, and motivate each other in a comfortable space of their own.
Birth of the League
At a male-dominated (surprise, surprise) conference in 2011, a chance encounter between four successful female entrepreneurs, Liz Atkinson, Marie Cruz-deVera, Sheryl Thai and Sarah Riegelhuth, led to the birth of an idea – a women-only entrepreneurial event.
In two weeks, the event sold out with an attendance of 180 women in a wine bar.
In three years, the League has reached out to eight cities across Australia and recently celebrated the opening of its first international branch in the UK.
Women entrepreneurs still don’t have it easy
Despite the rosy numbers on female entrepreneurship, Riegelhuth, co-founder of the League of Extraordinary Women and director of Wealth Enhancers financial services firm, said her career had shown her first-hand the difficulties that women face.
“For a long time, even while I was at the top of my game in the financial services world, I still felt like I struggled to find recognition amongst my mostly male counterparts,” she explained.
“I often say how I wished the League was around when I was starting out, to provide that support and encouragement that I couldn’t get from friends or even other business groups,” said Riegelhuth, who was listed as one of the Top 50 Female Entrepreneurs Under 40 in 2014 by Shoestring.
“Being one of the few women in a room of mostly male entrepreneurs or business owners can be very intimidating, and it can feel for many women as though you need to justify your presence to be taken seriously,” she added.
Events that truly mean business- “warts and all”
The League isn’t keen on holding run-of-the-mill networking events where people rub shoulders and perform a show-and-tell of their successes.
According to Riegelhuth, the League’s goal is to create a supportive community where women could feel at ease and share their entrepreneurship stories “warts and all – exposing the grisly side of start-ups while offering tangible stories of inspiration and encouragement.”
The League offers its members regular workshops on topics spanning branding and marketing, finances and PR, as well as access to funding and grants from its numerous partners. It is hoped that members gain knowledge from these sessions, as well as a greater understanding of their business environments.
Changing the global business landscape, one step at a time
Riegelhuth revealed that the League of Extraordinary Women hopes to provide support to many women through the trials and tribulations of starting a business from scratch, and to be a catalyst for change in the global business landscape.
The League is already taking its first steps. Recently announcing plans to launch in New York and South Africa, the goal is to hit 10,000 members globally in five years’ time.
For more information on the League of Extraordinary Women head to www.leagueofextraordinarywomen.com.au
*Dynamic Business (2013) “The growth of female entrepreneurs”, March 06
** The Australian Centre of Entrepreneurship Research (2010)