Australia's Assistant Minister for Innovation, Wyatt Roy, has welcomed the strong showing of women in Australia's first on-campus MBA in Entrepreneurship (MBAe), launched by the University of Technology Sydney today.
Speaking by video from Canberra, where he was detained because of the marathon debate over Senate voting changes, Mr Roy said the MBAe was something he was "deeply excited" about.
"If we are going to ensure that generations of Australians have the full potential to seize the exciting opportunities that we are seeing in a changing global economy, we need to ensure that they have a very strong foundation in those entrepreneurial skill sets that will allow them to create the businesses, the products, the services to change the world for the better," he said.
"These programs will go a very long way to providing that strong foundation for deeply inspiring Australians."
Mr Roy noted that in the first intake women entrepreneurs accounted for 45 per cent of the class.
"You have such incredible gender balance in this program," he said. "It's vitally important that if we are going to seize these exciting opportunities for the future that we do that by utilising all Australians, not just half of them.
"If you look at the rate of startups that are funded, only 6 per cent currently have female founders. This is something that is vitally important we change as a country, and you are really leading the charge in this space.
"…If we are going to really achieve our full potential we need to ensure that these incredible female founders, these incredible female entrepreneurs, are the absolute rock stars they deserve to be because that is what will help inspire the next generation of Australians to follow in their footsteps."
Rachel Botsman, author and leading thinker on the sharing economy, congratulated UTS for the new MBAe, saying "it's incredibly important to have this program in Australia, to start to change the dialogue around what Australia does and where it sits in the world".
She urged "no more excuses", saying Australia had to move past complaints about small markets, programmer shortages and absent venture capital. "If Estonia can do it, Australia can do it," she said.
The new MBAe is the first on-campus MBA in Australia specifically designed for entrepreneurs. It is also unique in being structured as three separate graduate certificates –in commercialisation, entrepreneurship and new venture funding – so entrepreneurs can tailor the program to their needs.
The Dean of UTS Business School, Professor Roy Green, said there had been enormous interest in the MBAe, with 68 applications, from which 28 entrepreneurs were selected to take part.
The average age of the entrepreneurs is 34, and they come from the technology, fintech, entertainment, not-for-profit, education, retail and government sectors.
Professor Green said the MBA in Entrepreneurship was developed in close collaboration with the startup community but also with the corporate sector.
"Our MBAe participants come to us not just as potential founders of startups, or as entrepreneurs who are looking for the skills to scale up a business, but also as professionals who want to bring an entrepreneurial mindset to the organisations they work inside," he said.
"As well as startups and growth businesses, we need Australian businesses capable of disrupting themselves – before they are disrupted."
UTS Provost Professor Peter Booth said the MBAe was a program for the times.
"The jobs of the future will be very different. In fact we know that 40 per cent - around 5 million Australian jobs - will disappear in the next 10-15 years due to automation. And the demands and expectations of today's students are very different.
"A recent piece of research conducted here at UTS revealed that 40 per cent of our current students or recent graduates have either started their own business or are considering a startup or entrepreneurial career path."
Among the MBAe candidates at the launch today were entrepreneur Chelsea Ramsden and intrapreneur Eleanor Fleming.
Ms Ramsden joins the MBAe from the music industry, and has an app due for release later this year and is now working on an idea for a creative agency.
Why the MBAe? Ramsden says she wanted the "focus" of an integrated program rather than piecemeal courses. "I want to do everything the right way," she said. "This program is also a good way to meet other people, to build a community."
Ms Fleming comes to the MBAe as an employee from a 130-year-old service provider. "[Innovation] is a big topic for our company," she says. "Working in marketing, I want to add another layer to my skills through the MBAe to be part of that."
The MBAe program is based in the Frank Gehry-designed Dr Chau Chak Wing Building in Ultimo, which is at the heart of Australia's startup capital, Sydney.
The Ultimo postcode has the highest density of startups in Australia, with more than 52 startups per square kilometre.