Heather McLean-Thomson believes in investing in women for the future.
“We know if you invest in women, the ripple effect to families and communities is so great, and we want to have the biggest impact possible,” said Heather, chief operating officer of Global Sisters, an Australian nonprofit whose mission is to make business possible for women.
Global Sisters is unique among nonprofits in that it provides a genuine alternative for unemployed or underemployed women who otherwise would not be able to get a job or gain access to sustainable work. Instead, Global Sisters helps women start and grow their own businesses, thereby improving their long-term economic security.
Heather said although there is a lot of start-up business support for women in Australia (and the U.S. and U.K.) much of it is targeted at women who are already financially solvent, well educated and can talk the language of incubators and tech spaces.
“That is just not possible for our sisters who are very much excluded from that space,” Heather explained.
Since launching in 2016, the eBay Foundation’s Global Give grantee has made business possible and increased economic participation for women across Australia, supporting thousands of women nationwide including those in urban, regional and remote communities. They focus on supporting an ecosystem of women who are unemployed or underemployed single mothers, older women and women of color facing both financial and personal barriers.
How do they do this? By removing the structural and systemic barriers women in Australia commonly face, making self-employment a viable option.
“The big barriers that were coming up were confidence, the business skills and know-how, connections and networks,” explained Heather. “So, the peer community and our Global Sisters community, including corporate partners, is hugely important with the confidence building and access to the sales channels and business acumen support.”
When Global Sisters started, the nonprofit assumed that financing was going to be the most important factor in helping women get their businesses off the ground. But it proved to be more complex.
“We very quickly came to realize that it was just one of the tools required,” Heather said. “So, now, we offer long-term support to women around business ideation, launching a business and business development.”
This innovative end-to-end approach comes in the form of long-term support in four key areas: business education, business coaching, microfinance and sales and marketing (via Global Sisters’ Marketplace).
The organization offers long-term support to women over a number of years ensuring their “sisters” receive what they need to succeed. And since 2016, Global Sisters has been sharing its stories of success.
One of those is Asha Murphy, the founder of the education-tech company, Edu-fy. The 63-year-old lives in Sydney on the land of the Gadigal people of the Eora nation of the First People of Australia. Her company aims to make education equitable for all learners. As an older woman of color, Asha has received support from Global Sisters to navigate the challenges of the technology start-up sector. So far, she has created an app and prototype platform for her company.
In late 2021, Global Sisters matched 30 Australian business leaders with 30 women who pitched their businesses for support and mentorship as part of their Sister Pitch program. eBay’s own Rebecca Newton, head of brand, customer acquisition and loyalty, was matched with Maria Jose Valenzuela, the founder of AyurvedaSOL – a company created to share ayurvedic practices to tackle health concerns in a natural, holistic and inclusive way.
Our purpose at eBay is to connect people and build communities to create economic opportunity for all. The eBay Foundation and eBay employees worldwide are proud that Global Sisters is one of our 49 Global Give 2021 grant winners.
The eBay Foundation remains committed to supporting inclusive entrepreneurship for historically marginalized communities. Learn more about Global Give and the eBay Foundation at ebayinc.com/impact/ebay-foundation.