Only nine women featured in the top 100 of the Financial Review's Young Rich List, which features the wealthiest self-made Australians.

Julie-anne Sprague, the Editor of this year’s list and herself the first woman to be in her role, was struck by the lopsided gender numbers.

“There are a few issues at play,” she tells The CEO Magazine. “The sectors that are driving a lot of wealth for our entrepreneurs this year are technology and finance and they tend to be very male-dominated arenas”.

This problem has its roots in tertiary and secondary education, Sprague says, where fewer women are enrolled in STEM subjects.

Sprague says there is also a systemic sexism within the finance sector. “Men tend to lend to other men; that’s been borne out in the statistics.

“It means that women are struggling to get the amount of capital that men do early on to start businesses.”

Lack of networks and infrastructure for young women entrepreneurs

Asked whether the government could be proactive in providing grants and or loans specifically for young women entrepreneurs, Sprague agrees more could be done.

Some of the women on the list have taken matters into their own hands, however.

Jane Lu, CEO of Showpo (#72 on the list), for instance, founded a networking business called Like Minded Bitches Drinking Wine. It now has more than 85,000 young businesswoman members worldwide.

“There was nowhere women could go and learn from other women about building businesses,” says Sprague of the void filled by Lu’s group.

“A lot of the time, these female-based businesses are selling products and services to other women.”

One thing that does give Sprague optimism for greater gender equality in the list going forward is that her discussions with executives across venture capital and private equity showed the firms are often acutely aware of their gender biases and are actively working towards employing more women and financing more women entrepreneurs.

Kayla Itsines’ gravity-defying success

The highest-placed woman on the list was Kayla Itsines who placed fifth with a combined wealth of A$486 million with her fiance Tobi Pearce.

While you can’t throw a rock on Instagram without hitting a self-proclaimed fitness guru in their washboard abs, Itsines has been able to cut through what has become a truly crowded market.

Sprague says Itsines benefitted from first-mover advantage, being among the first of the entrepreneurial personal traders to embrace the digital sphere.

“She was almost an accidental social media star, she didn’t really know what Instagram was six years ago, now she has more than ten million followers.

“But sitting down with both (Itsines and Pearce), I saw they have a very steely focus on their business. They know exactly what they’re doing and what they want to achieve. It’s easy to get distracted in social media, but they’ve stayed true to what they want to do.”

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