Dr Dhara Shah

Griffith Business School is working with the Australian government to empower women aged 50 and over to build their confidence, capabilities and skills needed for better social and economic outcomes.

The project led by Dr Dhara Shah from the Department of Business, Strategy and Innovation, commenced in November 2018 with the creation of an identity called ‘The Sisters Project’ that was suitably branded with a motto ‘Sisters – Support Business Together’.

A major goal of the project is to improve outcomes for women aged 50 years and over, who are underemployed or unemployed, may have missed out on superannuation, have poor financial security and are keen to work with mentors to improve their situation.

“I am excited to be involved with the Sisters Project and to be able to help disadvantaged women in the community, to build their confidence and financial resilience,” said Dr Shah.

“Our Sisters may have suffered from inequalities in wages, gender and age, and may have tended to be in casual or part-time roles and might have found themselves at risk of homelessness and unable to make ends meet.”

“Without intervention to enhance their confidence and earning capabilities, these women face long-term reliance on welfare and the social support system.”

Importantly this project aims to empower Sisters by building their self-efficacy, bringing them together in groups to form support networks and partnerships, and providing them with financial grants, skills development, training, mentoring and coaching to start micro and small businesses.

“We are well under-way and have already started recruitment of our Sisters and mentors and conducted the first workshop,” said Dr Shah.

“In our information sessions so far, we are meeting very motivated women who really want to improve their current situations and are excited about this opportunity.”

“And bringing Sisters who are like-minded together helps to combat social isolation and can have long-term positive mental health benefits.”

The program co-development commenced in November 2018, and the first workshop in June 2019 included consultation with a group of women aged 50 years and over for their input and ideas on the program design.

“A key objective is to develop self-sufficient women who are connected into their community networks, with increased skills and opportunities for self-employment and in turn develop community capacity, said Dr Shah.”

“We are also anticipating that the project will have some intergenerational impacts with mothers and daughters creating startup micro-businesses.”

The research is being conducted within the context of Australia’s social security system that is currently under review to deliver a sustainable working system, and better solutions for disadvantaged Australians.

“Success of this project is not just about building sustainable businesses, it is about building self-confidence and skills to enable broader self-employment and creating pathways to financial independence,” said Dr Shah.

“Ultimately we aim to provide policy lessons and alternative solutions that will inform different levels of government about the most effective areas of program support, in relation to self-employment and social housing for older women.”

Griffith researchers will be engaging with a range of community service providers during the process including; Job Active Providers, Homelessness networks, Transition to Work, Parents Next, Integrated Carer Support Service, Career Transition Assistance, and the National Disability Insurance Scheme.