I am living in multiple liminal spaces. There are comings and goings all around me. The call and response to move and to be still. The ever present need to have feet firmly planted. This space is a threshold to reflect on the now and bring a promise to tomorrow from the now. In these in-between times my other lives continue to unfold. Relationships don’t fall away, work commitments wane. Invitations for change-making and sharing ideas bubble on through the cracks. Switching between midwifery to new ventures in the public domain to midwifery of another kind in the private. So for today’s post I am sharing my response to a call to contribute in the public domain. In marketing terms this might be thought of a cross promotion, but it is an endeavour to bring all of me to all of the liminal spaces in my life and so why not on these pages too?
I first got introduced to equity as a model of growth by Dr Michael McAfee of PolicyLink. This week I am going to be talking about a movement I have founded. Here is what I am planning to say. I am using my five minutes for speculative fiction.
Date: September 2027 Headline: SA achieves another first
South Australia has become the first place in the world to reach 50% of investment, and return on that investment, going to women. Ten years ago SA set a 50:50 target – gender equity in investment for women in startups and social enterprises.
The levers used to get this result included: changes in procurement policies, education to get more girls into STEM and coding, capital – from venture capital to impact investing – setting their own gender targets, more women in board rooms and around the cabinet table.
Industry leaders, local and State government, set the foundations for early wins by all signing the panel pledge for gender balance at their conferences and events. Councils and State entities added it as a criteria in tender documents for global conventions wanting to use their venues. After all: “if you can’t see it you can’t be it”. Having women visible, publicly acclaimed, out front, all the time, no exceptions, made an impact and is now the norm.
The State Procurement Board set targets for social enterprises, BCorps and co-ops to win contracts. It was amazing how quickly business adjusted, eager to showcase their capabilities & gender credentials as part of their transition to the on purpose economy.
A little tougher, but achieved, was getting more women onto the runway for startups. Startmate and Techstars were early adopters and got 50% women into their second and third South Australian rounds. While the research showed in 2017 you only needed half as much investment in female founded startups to double your money, up until then no-one had cracked the code on how to make it happen.
There were collaborations between startups and social enterprises that ignited change at scale. From nanotechnology for monitoring the well-being of remote populations through to home kitchens creating nutritional meals for people with disabilities and their carers – these ideas started here – with women and with investment. Digitising the “blue book” by pairing it with SA’s world class Datalink, built and transferred knowledge about child development, established real time data and brought agile funding and resource delivery, when and where it was needed most. Consequently, SA became famous for its non-invasive early intervention approach to child protection.
The gender pay gap was always lowest in South Australia and the Equal Opportunity Commissioner was able to point to the Google 2017 class action to help spur on the tech and creative industries who had always lagged behind. SA reached gender wage parity in 2025 and despite a few laggers, leaders pointed to the economic truth: diversity equals dollars and gender was a no brainer, truly low hanging fruit.
There are still some sticking points in the eco-system: In 2017 there were 4% of women in venture capital it is now 15%. The number of women CEOs in start ups hasn’t shifted from 30% since 2022, and the number of women academics researching and growing graduates for the on purpose economy continues to oscillate around 35 – 40% – while there is plenty to celebrate in 2027 we ain’t there yet!
If you want to know more about how SA got these results, look around the town for VR clips embedded in the landscape telling stories of women innovators and entrepreneurs. Tap any leader – male or female – and ask them how they got involved and what they did to contribute. It has been a collective effort fuelled by passion, good ideas, imagination, wisdom – trading in trust, built on relationships and in a spirit of generosity, fostered by women and men who wanted to unlock and unleash the potential of South Australia.
SA has been the home of many first’s for women that then went global or national – first in Australia for women to get the vote, first in the Westminster system for women to earn the right to stand for Parliament, first State to have a female Supreme Court Judge and first woman governor, SA was first state to have secondary school for girls, University of Adelaide was first in Australia to accept women students, first place for a woman police officer in the British empire, first hospital for mothers and babies in Australia, first woman elected to local government, first sex discrimination act in Australia, first place in the Commonwealth to legislate against rape in marriage. We had the first women wharfies, the first woman fork-lift driver, and the first woman Ombudsman.
And what have I got to do with all of this? I am the founder of Chooks. Chooks is emerging as an independent intermediary– building connections online and face to face, change-making through advocacy, policy advice and collaborations to nurture the transition to a profitable on purpose economy and a meaningful on purpose community. We are leaving behind single definition problems and linear solutions to appreciating complexity and working at systems level by using the levers that already exist or getting some out of the way and making new ones.
Launched in May this year as a humble self- organising closed facebook group of 100. This week we have reached 600, clearly a need being filled. Chooks is rooted in our history and our potential. It is unapologetically South Australian. Chooks is not a lab, an incubator, an investor. Chooks is a movement, leading, driving and striving for inclusive entrepreneurship.
Like all movements Chooks converges culture, activism and knowledge.
If you share the desire for equity as a model for growth and want to apply a gender lens to get there, you are invited to join us.