Self-confessed serial entrepreneur, former journalist and communications strategist Madeleine Grummet was part of the first cohort to take on the Master of Entrepreneurship at the University of Melbourne’s Wade Institute. During her Masters, she co-founded GirledWorld – an education tech company building the next generation of women leaders, entrepreneurs and STEMM champions.
Can you tell us about GirledWorld and why you’re so passionate about this business?
My background is in journalism and media. Throughout a decade I had jobs in television, newspapers, radio and magazines, and from there I started a creative agency, Do Re Me, which I have since sold.
I was already working on a project called ‘World Wise Women’when I started the Masters, which was the result of many interviews I did with high profile women around Australia about the ‘juggle’ and ‘the trouble with having it all’. This was a problem I was trying to understand and solve for myself
Throughout my year at the Wade Institute the solution became Girledworld - which is about how we equip girls to drive the economy.
We need to educate, inspire, equip and empower girls with the skills they need for the future of work. Madeleine Grummet
Girledworld works with schools, industry, government and start-ups to give secondary school girls skills, access to role models and planning tools for their future careers.
We hold an annual summit in Melbourne, endorsed by the Federal and State Governments – which brings extraordinary women from across the world together with teenage girls to inspire and teach them
I’m passionate about this issue because the numbers aren’t moving. Only 20 per cent of founders of start-ups are female and just eight per cent of the ASX’s top 200 CEOs are female.
Plus, I’m a mother of four daughters myself, but it’s bigger than my story.
I’ve seen how the system does not accommodate women staying in the workforce, especially after family-raising years. I think there are some good conversations going on, but next we need action.
What made you want to take on the Master of Entrepreneurship at the University of Melbourne, and how was your experience?
I had been running my own business for a while and wanted to take it to the next level. I was originally looking at doing an MBA, but when I heard about the Master of Entrepreneurship, I knew that was the course for me.
It’s basically a new age MBA, which gives you a future-facing set of business skills. I chose the Masters because it has extraordinary academic rigour, a rich set of opportunities and was incredibly hands-on.
I could see it would also allow me to tap into the rich resources across the University of Melbourne, and give me access to some of the biggest players in the start-up eco-system in Australia and overseas.
During the Masters, I launched two start-ups – Girledworld and Lloci, a sharing economy platform for users to buy experiences from local city-based experts, which we pitched to Airbnb in 2016. I also did internships on social investment with Y-Gap, brand strategy with Emma and Tom’s and designed a card game with creative agency The Royals.
I was lucky enough to travel to Silicon Valley at the end of 2016 on an innovation study tour to visit Google, Twitter, Airbnb and other tech companies.
I was also selected into a Graduate Leadership Program led by Dr Rufus Black, whose mandate to us was that we should aim to “step out and make a disproportionate difference to the world”.
Given all I jammed in, my Masters year was intense. I have four kids and I was running a business at the same time. For a year, I had to commit to the course at full pelt, but it far exceeded my expectations.
The course has consolidated my business skillset and made me passionate about the future of start-ups and entrepreneurship in this country.
The University of Melbourne is well ahead of the curve when it comes to entrepreneurship education in Australia – and I have been nothing but thrilled with my experience.
So, what’s next on your radar?
Girledworld is now full steam ahead. I have been travelling around Australia, doing lots and lots of speaking at events and on panels to spark the conversations we need to have about the future of work and the gender pay gap
We are busy designing our 2018 GirledWorld summit, which we are hosting with RMIT in June 2018. We held our first summit this year at the Wade Institute where we had 500 girls aged 13-17 from across Victoria and New South Wales Next year we aim to have 800 girls.
We are also building a digital platform, which will enable girls all around the world access to career advice and other tools to help plan their futures.
It will give girls ways to identify their core strengths, access internships, female role-models working in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM) and start-ups.
The platform is especially aimed at students in years nine and 10 who are making those critical choices about what subjects to study, and what pathways they might take after school.
In 2018 I will also be starting a part-time innovation role with Telstra Labs, transitioning Telstra from a telco to a future tech company. I’m excited about the opportunity and will be bringing much of what I learnt on my Masters to the role.
I also provide mentorship to young social pioneers at the Foundation for Young Australians, business and leadership mentorship at a number of social enterprises, and hold board advisory and directorships with NewCo, the Human Rights Arts and Film Festival and Cool Australia Education.
You clearly have a busy schedule! What do you do to relax and unwind?
We get away, get perspective, and have lots of family time. Sunday is our lock down day, when we hang out with the kids.
My family and I recently went off-line for three weeks up north to the Kimberley, which was fantastic.
Of course, I am busy, but when you’re working on a business you love, it doesn’t feel like work. You don’t even stop to think about the hours you’re putting in.
What advice do you have for people thinking about becoming entrepreneurs or starting their own business?
Get gritty! Be prepared to work hard, and be resourceful. You can’t build a business alone, you need to harness the talents of many, because you can’t do everything.
And keep learning. Curiosity, and a willingness to find a way to solve the problems of the world, is what will keep you questing.
Your work is going to take the great share of your days, so do what you love with the days you have.
As Annie Dillard said, 'how we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives'.
Madeline Grummet is speaking at The Influencers – Women in STEMM event on Thursday 16 November from 6-8.30pm, and on a panel at NewCo about unpacking unconscious bias on Thursday 23 November, 9.30-10.15am.
Read more about the issues facing female economists and women at work in Pursuit.
Banner and inside images courtesy of Nicole Ramsay and the Grace Tales.