#WalkTheTalk: Sarah Grace Worboys of Startup Victoria Female Founders

“If you are successful, it is because somewhere, sometime, someone gave you a life or an idea that started you in the right direction. Remember also that you are indebted to life until you help some less fortunate person, just as you were helped.” – Melinda Gates

In the first of a new Nitro series of leadership features, Walk the Talk (#walkthetalk), I chatted with Zero Gender Divide panellist, Sarah Grace Worboys, co-lead of Startup Victoria Female Founders, about what inspires her. She concluded our chat by sharing the Melinda Gates quote that you see above, and it perfectly sums up Sarah Grace’s depth of character. Soft spoken and eloquent, Sarah Grace commands a room by balancing compelling argument with facts, heart and refreshing candour – and you can’t help but lean in to hear more.

What problem do you seek to solve?

I’d like to light a path for women entrepreneurs. There has never been a better time to be an entrepreneur in Australia. The economic imperative for our nation is clear, and we finally have a Prime Minister with the commercial acumen to deliver targeted growth initiatives to the sector. Just as exciting are the big corporates with both the funds and desire to invest in new and disruptive technologies. Basically, everyone wants to get on the startup train to innovation town but there is one big problem…in Australia’s startup ecosystem, only 4.3% of startups are owned by women. Despite the fact that companies owned by women bring in 12% higher revenue on average, only 3-5% of female owned businesses receive venture capital.

So this is where Startup Victoria Female Founders would come into play?

Yes! Startup Victoria’s mission is ‘more founders, better founders’, and our mission is to ensure at least half of them are women by providing an environment that allows women to feel welcome, inspired and empowered to fulfil their business dreams. Women who have the strength and tenacity to challenge stereotypes (such as that perpetuated by mainstream media of female celebrities who derive social currency from looks, rather that intellect) inspire me. Through the Female Founders initiative, we are consciously creating our own ‘celebrity’ role models: we actively promote women leaders and celebrate the big thinkers, social champions of change and those advancing us technically, medically and socially.

Female Founders co-hosted event at Inspire 9.

Female Founders co-hosted event at Inspire 9.

How did you become involved with Startup Victoria Female Founders?

A few years ago I was part of the team responsible for launching the York Butter Factory (‘YBF’) co-working space where I then started a meetup for the women entrepreneurs working from YBF called “Ladies of York” with Richenda Vermeulen from ntegrity. What began as an excuse to get the girls together over a glass of champagne evolved into a support network – and we’ve grown from a little group of eight in 2013 to almost 500 today! Joining Startup Victoria Female Founders was the logical next step for ensuring we were positioned to take our community of women to the next level when it came to providing support, mentorship and opportunities.

Finally, who is your gender diversity hero?

My gender diversity role model is Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and founder of the Lean In movement. She said what the rest of us were thinking and lent her face and brand to the conversation. We all finally had someone to cite as a reference rather than tiptoeing around our own self-doubt and suspicion that something other than just ourselves was holding us back.

Sheryl’s message has accelerated awareness of gender disparity in the workforce and home, and for that she is a true leader and role model for those who have the opportunity to champion a cause to benefit those who may not have as strong a voice.

Sarah Grace’s gender diversity inspiration: Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook

Sarah Grace’s gender diversity inspiration: Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook

Juggling a fulltime role as a commercial manager at law firm Allens, alongside her duties as co-lead at Female Founders means that time is of essence for Sarah Grace. Here’s her top 10 resources to help aspiring female leaders make short work of conquering the business world:

  1. Startup Victoria Female Founders
  2. Kauffman Founders School
  3. Girls Invent
  4. Inspiring Rare Birds
  5. Women 2.0
  6. Startup Weekend
  7. League of Extraordinary Women
  8. Male champions of change
  9. Springboard Australia
  10. Scale

Inspired to take action? Reach out to Sarah Grace on Twitter: @sarahgrace84, or contact us to find out more about the #walkthetalk series.