What motivates thriving women-led export businesses

More women than ever are at the helm of thriving export businesses across Australia. We sat down with two Aussie leaders to find out what motivates their success.

At the 59th Australian Export Awards held in 2021, women-led businesses made up 39% of finalists. That’s a substantial increase since the 2018 awards, when just 23.8% of finalist businesses were led by women. 

In 2021, we saw women-led businesses in most award categories. They were leading companies across:

  • Agribusiness, Food and Beverages
  • Creative Industries
  • E-commerce
  • International Education and Training
  • International Health
  • Manufacturing and Advanced Materials
  • Minerals, Energy and Related Services
  • Professional Services
  • Regional Exporter
  • Small Business
  • Sustainability.

What’s driving women’s leadership and entrepreneurship? We spoke with two Aussie managing directors to find out what motivates them.

A unique contribution

Marie Piccone is the Managing Director at Manbulloo Limited, a Northern Territory and Queensland -based mango export business. With seven family-owned farms across Northern Australia, Manbulloo is the largest grower of Kensington Pride and R2E2 mangoes in the country. 

Piccone believes women have a significant and often unique contribution to make towards environmental, social and economic sustainability. 

‘Equality and empowering this amazing female energy and resource is fundamental to stability and a positive and sustainable future,’ she says. 

A focus on respect and fair representation

As a woman leading a thriving export business, Piccone is aware of the importance of respect and fair representation in her workforce.  

‘Everyone is important to our business,’ she says. ‘We need diversity and fair representation to achieve the best outcomes and sustainable goals. We value the role and input of all team members and believe that respect is paramount to building and empowering an amazing team.’ 

Bec Hardy, Managing Director at Bec Hardy Wines, agrees. A recognised brand with a proud heritage, the Bec Hardy Wines portfolio comprises premium wines from several South Australian regions. It exports to 12 markets. 

‘The wine industry is still male-dominated,’ she says. ‘Being a female co-owner who hires and champions women in the workplace is something I am really proud of. 

‘I want to make Bec Hardy Wines an attractive place to work for people from all backgrounds and life experiences. Offering flexible opportunities is something I prioritise for my team.’ 

Flexible hours reflect the realities of modern life

Hardy points to flexible working hours as an important change. It allows women to better balance the demands of work and home life. 

‘The biggest challenge for a lot of women with children would be the working hours, especially during vintage, which can be very long,’ she says. 

‘We’re advocates for offering flexible working options – after all, a happy workforce leads to increased productivity and brings dividends. The majority of our team is women, and we embrace flexible working. We also offer our working parents the opportunity to work some days from home. We know how difficult “the juggle” can be.  

‘By trusting the team and affording them personal responsibility for the tasks they need to deliver, we know they’ll be more productive.’ 

Images courtesy of Marie Piccone (left) and Bec Hardy (right) Images courtesy of Marie Piccone (left) and Bec Hardy (right)

Advocating for cultural and policy changes to better support women

Piccone says shifts in cultural norms around parenting have been an important driver of her success. She also highlights changes in government and corporate policies around childcare and equal opportunity.  

‘The changes in workplaces that support men to participate more as parents is another positive that benefits fathers, mothers and the children. It is so vital that men are supported and have the same parenting opportunities as women,’ says Piccone. 

‘[These changes] have enabled me and other women in business to have more work/life balance,’ she says. ‘They’ve also given me more exposure to exceptional women and people in general with expertise, talent and leadership experience.’ 

Exposure is one of the reasons why Piccone encourages businesses to apply for the Australian Export Awards. ‘The networking and exposure to publicity are both great outcomes of being involved.’ 

The future is female

Piccone is excited for the future of women in business Down Under. 

‘There are so many competent, passionate and motivated women in agriculture, marketing, IT, supply chain, policy, technical and science roles and industry bodies,’ she says. 

‘It would be unimaginable if women are not in many more diverse and key leaderships positions in these industry sectors. Capitalising on the talent of women is vital for the future growth and advancement of our industries.’  

Hardy says she’s looking out for the next generation of women leaders. ‘Everything we do in the business is for our daughter Matilda. We strive to give her a great future,’ she says. 

‘Ultimately, I want other girls and young women to look to Bec Hardy Wines and think, “I can do that, too!”’ 

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