Self-confessed serial entrepreneur, former journalist and communications strategist Madeleine Grummet was part of the first cohort of students to take on the Master of Entrepreneurship at the University of Melbourne’s Wade Institute in 2016. During her Masters year, Madeleine co-founded GirledWorld – an education tech company building the next generation of female 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 and magazines, and from there I started a creative agency, Do Re Me, which designed brand strategies, consumer activations and creative workshops, 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 all around Australia about glass ceilings, 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, I realised the problem was in the pipeline, and that the continued gender skills gap was caused by attrition of women out of the workforce, out of the boardrooms and out of businesses and leadership positions across Australia as a result of unconscious bias and entrenched systems in our social, political and economic structures.
The solution became Girledworld – an early pipeline intervention to equip, educate and empower girls with entrepreneurship, leadership and enterprise mindsets, STEM skillsets and the role models they need to light the way so they not only participate in, but drive the new knowledge economy.
We need to build a new generation of girls who will step into the future of work ready to lead, succeed and create the businesses that will drive Australia into a new age of entrepreneurship and innovation.
So what has girledworld set out to do?
Girledworld works with schools, industry, government and start-ups to give secondary school girls access to skills, role models, planning tools and pathways for their future careers.
We believe girls can’t be what they can’t see.
So as part of our immersion model, we hold an annual Big Ideas Leadership Summit in Melbourne, this year endorsed by the Federal and State governments, which brings extraordinary women from across the world together with teenage girls to inspire and teach them how to stand up, step up and start up. Next year it will held in partnership with RMIT in June.
I’m deeply passionate about this issue because our gender equality and parity numbers aren’t moving quickly enough. The World Economic Forum’s recent report showed the gap between men and women across health, education, technology, politics and economics has widened for the first time since records began in 2006. And it’s estimated that it will take 100 years before women achieve equality globally.
In Australia alone, where we are dropping on the innovation index and actually need to innovate to create the value and jobs of the future, we know STEMM will drive 75% of the fastest growing industries. And yet we still see only 1 in 10 engineering graduates are female, only 1 in 4 IT graduates, and only 20 per of startup founders are female. Couple that with corporate Australian statistics substantiating that females account for only 8 per cent of ASX 200 CEO’s, and only 1 in 5 ASX 200 board members are female, and it’s time we action change, build STEMM skills for all, make the business case for diversity and create a critical intervention to bring these numbers into balance.
This will be a huge challenge requiring collaboration between government, industry and education to disrupt the current model.
Girledworld has always been bigger than my story, but as a mother of four daughters myself, I am deeply vested in contributing to actioning that critical change. Because I have lived the problem - I get the pain points.
I’ve seen and felt first-hand how our current economic, cultural, societal and political systems do not accommodate women staying engaged in the workforce, especially during and post family-raising years, and how policy and power-shapers, and now the internet and innovations of our age, are systems predominantly built by men.
This is a critical issue, and at its core fundamentally does not make sense. There needs to be a radical shift. This starts with conversation, bringing together key stakeholders and working to solve together, for the issues of our times. But we need real action. With women, and men, working side by side building the future together, for the betterment of all.
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 to solve on a bigger scale. I could see all these opportunities and was turning over ideas all the time, and 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 would let me study and build at the same time.
It’s basically a new age MBA, which gives you a future-facing set of business skills across the startup and innovation suite (Design Thinking, Lean Startup, Agile and scalable Business Models). I chose the Masters because it has extraordinary academic rigour, offered a rich set of research and internship opportunities and was an incredibly hands-on learning environment where you could build your startup with a huge support structure behind you.
I could see the Masters would also allow me to tap the rich resources across FBE, School of Engineering, and Melbourne Business School at the University of Melbourne, as well as opportunity to be taught by and have access to some of the biggest players in the start-up eco-system within Australia, and overseas.
Throughout the Masters I launched two startups - girledworld and a sharing economy platform lloci which we pitched to Airbnb in 2016. I also completed business internships on social investment with with Y-Gap, omni-channel brand strategy with Emma and Tom’s and concepted and designed a Design Thinking Ideation Card Game with global creative agency The Royals.
I was also lucky enough to travel to Silicon Valley at the end of last year on an innovation study tour to visit Google, Twitter, IDEO, Box, Airbnb, Google Ventures and VCs across the valley to see startups at scale, and explore their culture creation and value architecture.
I was also lucky enough to be selected into a Graduate Leadership Program led by the extraordinary Professor Rufus Black, ethicist, educator, Rhodes Scholar, philosopher, Master of Ormond College, Co-Founder of Wade Institute, Chair of Museum Victoria, and soon to be Vice Chancellor of the University of Tasmania, whose mandate to us was that we should aim to “step out and make a disproportionate difference to the world”. Professor Black certainly has, and I feel privileged to have learned from and witnessed his intellect, vision and thought leadership as he continues to shape this country’s future generations.
Given all I jammed into it, my Masters year was intense. I have four kids, was interning, building startups and running my business at the same time. But the whole point of the Masters is to push yourself, explore the limits, and to embed the learnings into your business as quickly as you can to give it the best chance of growing.
For one year, I had to commit to the course at full pelt, but it far exceeded my expectations and I was fuelled by curiosity and this desire to build something that will put a dint in the universe. And it has really consolidated my business skillset, innovation toolkit and made me passionate about the future of startups and entrepreneurship in this country.
From what I have seen and compared to other offerings, The University of Melbourne is well ahead of the curve when it comes to entrepreneurship education in Australia – I have been nothing but thrilled with my experience, and continue to stay engaged with the startup scene here.
So, what’s next on your radar?
Girledworld is now full steam ahead. I have recently been travelling around Australia, doing lots of speaking at events and on panels to ignite the conversations we need to have about the future of work and the gender gap.
We are also busy designing our 2018 GirledWorld Summit, which we are hosting in partnership with RMIT the weekend of June 16/17 2018.
This will be delivered across the core themes of World Shaping, Future Facing, Work Ready and will enable secondary school girls to hear from STEM, startup and leadership mentors, work with them to develop solutions to real-world problems, and explore maker labs, exponential technologies and the future of work so they can better shape their own careers.
We held our first girledworld Summit this year at the Wade Institute where we saw 50 schools across Victoria and NSW and 500 girls aged 13-17 join us to hear from local and global leaders and speakers and immerse in UX, Design Thinking, StartUp and Leadership workshops, and it was a huge success. We’re looking forward to doing that at scale to enable more girls to join us in 2018.
We’re also in early stage build of a digital platform, which will allow girls all over Australia (and eventually around the world) to access career pathway advice, psychometric testing and New World of Work diagnostics, plus other mapping tools to plan their futures.
It will include a content-rich gateway to the future of work, and give girls ways to identify their core strengths, access amazing industry, STEM and startup female role models and build a connected community online.
The platform is especially aimed at those students in years 8 to 10 who are making those critical life choices about what subjects to study, and what tertiary or alternate pathways they might take as they navigate an uncertain future in a disrupted workscape.
Of course girledworld is my absolute passion, and I will always have this engine for social change driving me.
But cultivation of the broader startup ecosystem and innovation capability building is also critical to Australia’s ongoing economic viability and industry reinvention in the knowledge age. Corporate Australia needs to keep apace, and there is great work going on in innovation hubs across industries to test and prototype solutions.
In 2018 I will be starting a part-time innovation role with Telstra Labs, a dynamic space to experiment with new ideas and which includes Australia’s first publically-accessible Open IoT Lab, and the muru-D accelerator. I’m excited about the role, and will be bringing much of what I learnt on my Masters to the role along with recent qualifications in IDEO Design Thinking and Innovation Facilitation with Inventium.
I’m also a big believer in paying it forward and do try and give back where and when I can. I currently provide mentorship to Young Social Pioneers at the Foundation for Young Australians, business and leadership mentorship via Everwise (Atlassian and Zendesk) and a number of social enterprises, and hold Board Advisory and Directorships with NewCo, Human Rights Arts & 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, garden, afternoon nap, and hang about.
My family and I recently went off-line for three weeks up north to the Kimberley, which was fantastic for the kids to explore and immerse in the real Australia, and contemplate what a shared narrative and history really mean. We plan to take them to the Garma Festival next year.
Of course I am busy, but when you’re working on a business you love, it doesn’t feel like work. Startup doesn’t stop, but if you love it, you don’t even stop to think about the hours you’re putting in. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said: ‘Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.’ And as I say: “Don’t dream it, do it!”
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 wicked 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.”
UPCOMING EVENTS - girledworld NOVEMBER
Madeleine is speaking at The Influencers – Women in STEMM event Thursday 16 November at One Roof from 6.00-8.30pm in support of the Homeward Bound Project.
girledworld will ignite Melbourne as a host company for NewCo and welcome special guests Sally-Ann Williams of Google, Ralph Ashton of the Australian Futures Project and Nick Crocker of Blackbird Ventures to NAB's The Hall to unpack unconscious bias, chat the future of work and how we build a STEM Gen on Thursday 23 November, 9.30-10.15am. Tickets here.