Addressing gender inequality with 21.7% discount for female-led companies

8 March, 2024
Addressing gender inequality with 21.7% discount for female-led companies | News | Pause Awards
George Hedon, founder and CEO, Pause Fest & Awards
George Hedon
8 March, 2024

In an era where the pursuit of equality in the workplace is more vital than ever, the Pause Awards takes a proactive stance to narrow the gender gap.

Acknowledging the 21.7% gender pay disparity as reported by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA), we’re proud to announce a 21.7% discount on entry fees for female-led companies and founders.

This initiative not only reflects our dedication to supporting women in the realms of business and technology but also acts as a catalyst for change, encouraging more female-led ventures to come to the forefront of innovation and leadership.

It’s essential to recognise the remarkable achievements of female entrepreneurs, past winners who have not only led their companies to success but have also significantly contributed to reshaping the business landscape in Australia.

Notably, the Pause Index reveals an encouraging trend: 41% of total winners are unique female-led companies, with 44% of all awards in 2023 being taken home by female-led businesses. Let’s dive into a few past winners stories to see where they are now and how they got there.

Great Wrap
Julia Kay Co-founder of Great Wrap

Great Wrap: Revolutionising Sustainability

Great Wrap, Co-founded by Julia Kay and Jordy Kay, stands out as a testament to innovative thinking and sustainable practices. The company’s dedication to ending plastic waste has not only led to the invention of crucial products but also attracted significant investment, closing a $24 million Series A funding round in 2022. 

Their recognition at the Pause Awards in the same year for categories such as Defiant Ones, I wish I’d done that, and Grand Prix for Going Green underscores the urgent need for sustainable solutions in today’s market. They entered Pause Awards to connect with other founders, entrepreneurs and other businesses to be at the forefront of innovation and what’s happening in Australia.

When we asked them which business skill is the most important in business, they responded:

“Self-awareness. The ability to be quiet, take on feedback, look, listen and learn will help any high-growth venture scale fast. Not all feedback or advice is great but it is important to take it on and process it through the lens of yourself and your business.”

The Sheet Society
Hayley Worley, Founder of The Sheet Society

The Sheet Society: Redefining Comfort with Style

Hayley and Andy Worley’s venture, The Sheet Society, is another exemplary case of how innovative thinking can transform a traditional industry. Sparked by a desire for a career shift in 2017, Hayley’s transition from the fashion world to creating high-quality, stylish beddings has led the company to remarkable success, achieving $15 million by 2020. 

“I’ve worked in the fashion world for the past ten years and really just fell out of love with clothes! I wanted a career change and still wanted to be involved with fabrics and colours so the idea of creating bed sheets ticked all the boxes for me,” Hayley told Inside Small Business.

The company’s recognition in the Prodigy and Big Noise categories at the Pause Awards 2020 highlights the importance of their innovation and quality in product development.

“Personally, Pause Awards gave me that recognition that I’ve been working so hard for.”

Hayley Worley

The Sheet Society’s silent journey from conception to becoming Vogue Australia verified illustrates the potential of creative vision coupled with strategic digital marketing, high-end product and endless dedication to shoot their business into the stars.

Chaul Le, Origin Energy
Chau Le, Strategy and E-mobility, Origin Energy

Chau Le: Driving E-Mobility Forward at Origin Energy

Being a woman in leadership is rare, and it’s especially rare to be a female executive in both the energy and automotive fields. Chau Le is breaking down barriers and paving the way for more women to enter male-dominated industries. She’s been instrumental in the growth of the electric vehicles (EVs) in Australia and is passionate about creating a more equitable and sustainable future for all.

Winning the Pause Awards for New (Business) Model, Champion in Going Green, and Woman in Business category in 2023, Chau Le’s contributions reflect the growing recognition of female leaders in traditionally male-dominated sectors and their crucial role in steering industries towards greener futures.

“This award is great recognition of Origin’s innovation in delivering a range of e-mobility solutions to customers, and the work and dedication of our teams to help Australians switch to cleaner transportation.”

Chau Le
code like a girl
Ally Watson, Founder at Code like a girl

Ally Watson OAM: Championing Diversity in Tech 

Ally Watson’s initiative, Code Like a Girl, has been instrumental in addressing gender disparities in the tech industry. Since its inception in 2017, the organisation has made significant strides in empowering women and girls in technology, reflecting Ally’s vision of a more inclusive and diverse industry. 

Her early recognition at the Pause Awards 2018 in the Prodigy category underscores the impact of her work, which has since seen a 46% growth, employment of eight people, and placement of 130 women into tech jobs, bolstered by grants from notable corporations like Toyota, writes SmartCompany.

“I am driven by a vision of a tech industry that is inclusive, diverse, and representative of all voices. It’s not enough to have more women using tech – we need more women building tech.”

Ally Watson OAM
Frank Body
Jess Hatzis and Bree Johnson, Co-founders of Frank Body

Frank Body: Scrubbing the Way to Success

The story of Frank Body, co-founded by Jess Hatzis and Bree Johnson started in 2013, and is a compelling narrative of bold innovation and market understanding. Their unique coffee-based skincare products quickly captured the attention of a global audience, leading to significant investment in 2021 from China’s EverYi Capital, valuing the brand at about $100 million AUD. 

“You’re dealing with a lot of men in the startup sector who predominantly give money to men. Here we were with our female-led brand, producing products for women. What became obvious to me was the disconnect between the people that had the funding and the consumer group that we were targeting.” 

Jess Hatzis told SuperReview

Their 2018 Pause Award in the ‘I Wish I’d Done That’ category reflects the inventive spirit and entrepreneurial courage that define successful female-led ventures in the competitive beauty industry.

As we acknowledge the accomplishments of these incredible women and their companies, it’s clear that the landscape of technology and business is evolving, with female entrepreneurs at the helm of this change. 

The investments and awards garnered by these trailblazers not only signify individual achievements but also highlight the collective progress towards a more diverse and inclusive industry. The job is not done yet so we must — “Count Her In: Invest in Women. Accelerate Progress.” 

At Pause Awards, we love hearing the success stories, because we know they have not come without sweat and tears, so we want to wholeheartedly support her mission with a 21.7% discount on new entries.

On this International Women’s Day, let’s celebrate the resilience, creativity and leadership of women who are shaping the future of technology in Australia, one innovation at a time.

Other female-led businesses winners at Pause Awards, since 2018:

  • AirRobe (Hannon Comazzetto, Founder & CEO)
  • Airwallex (Lucy Liu, Jack Zhang, Max Li, Xijing Dai, Ki-lok Wong are the Founders)
  • Ally Watson OAM, CEO & Founder, Code Like a Girl
  • Angela Harbinson, Co-founder & CEO, The Separation Guide
  • Bri Johnstone, Senior CX Manger, Telstra
  • Brittany Garbutt, Founder, Pretzel Australia
  • Carers Couch (Martina Clark, Founder)
  • Chau Le, Group Manager of Strategy and E-Mobility, Origin Energy
  • Circle In (Jodi Geddes and Kate Pollard are the Founders)
  • Christina Hobbs, Co-Founder & CEO, Verve Super
  • Connect Labs (Soumya Indurti, Founder & CEO)
  • Cyan Ta’eed, Co-founder, Envato
  • Dianna Somerville, Chair, Regional Development Australia Riverina
  • Driveschool Enterprises (Lisa Skaife, Founder & CEO)
  • Edda Hamar, Co-founder & Director, Undress Runways
  • Emma McAllister, CEO, Education Perfect
  • Emily Blanch, Co-founders and Head of Community, XY Advisor
  • Fiona Wood AO FAHMS, Plastic Surgeon and Director, Royal Perth Hospital
  • Five Mile Radius (Clare Kennedy, Founder)
  • Fluff™ (Erika Geraerts, Founder)
  • Frank Body (Jess Hatzis and Bree Johnson are the Founders)
  • GippsTech (Dr. Elena Kelareva, Founder)
  • Goterra (Olympia Yarger, Founder)
  • Great Wrap (Julia Kay and Jordy Kay are the Founders)
  • Inspiring Rare Birds (Jo Burston, CEO)
  • Jan Owen AM, Council Member, World Economic Forum, Global Futures Council
  • Jasmine Batra (Arrow Digital, Founder)
  • Jess Scully (served as a Councillor on the City of Sydney Council from 2016 to 2023 and was Deputy Lord Mayor of Sydney from 2019 to 2022)
  • Jericho Clearly (Founder, Bountie)
  • Jodie Imam, Cofounder and Co-CEO, Tractor Ventures
  • Julia Waite, CN30 Project Manager, Meat & Livestock Australia
  • Judy Anderson, Group CEO, Euphemia
  • Kalinya Communications (Jirra Lulla Harvey, Founder and Director)
  • Kate Pollard, Co-founder at Well™ and Circle In
  • Law On Earth (Katie Richards, Founder & CEO)
  • LVLY (Hannah Spilva and Verity Tuck are the Founders)
  • LunchFox (Louise Fisher, Founder)
  • Marcella Romero, CEO, Arriba Group
  • Michelle Akhidenor, CEO, The Peers Project
  • Michelle (Mannering) Duke, Developer Advocate, GitHub
  • Mel Stubbings, Head of Engineering, Hide and Seek Digital
  • Melinda Farley, Director at Kollektive
  • Modibodi (Kristy Chong, Founder)
  • MrYum (Kimberly Teo, Adrian Osman, Andrei Miulescu)
  • Neighbourlytics (Jessica Christiansen-Franks and Lucinda Hartley are the Founders)
  • Ovira (Alice Williams is the Founder)
  • Pronto Bottle (Shannon Gilleland, Founder)
  • Rae Johnston, STEM Journalist and Broadcaster
  • Rita Arrigo, Strategic Engagement Manager, National AI Centre
  • Sally Hill, General Manager, Tripple
  • Scale Investors (Chelsea Newell, General Partner)
  • SBE Australia (Nicole Cook, CEO)
  • Stephanie Palmer-Derrien, Co-founder and Editor, The Club
  • Switch4Schools (Phil Slade and Roshelle Weir are founders)
  • The Community Collective (Paz Pisarski, Co-founder)
  • The Sheet Society (Hayley and Andy Worley are the Founders)
  • The Women’s Business School (Peace Mitchell and Katy Garner are the Founders)
  • Treble Notes (Mya Whatson, Founder)
  • Vanessa Doake, Chief People Officer, Art Processors
  • Winitha Bonney, Founder, Amina of Zaria

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Category tracks

The Culture track seeks entries that exemplify the development of an inclusive and collaborative workplace culture, crucial for organisational success and growth. Submissions should illustrate transformative strategies implemented across core business functions, reflecting expertise, leadership, and a clear vision. These strategies should demonstrate a positive impact on the business, its employees, stakeholders, and customers, showcasing how a nurturing culture contributes to overall growth and innovation.

The Excellence track celebrates businesses that have demonstrated remarkable success and impact within their industry, regardless of their size. Entries for this category should illustrate how the business's strategic execution, guided by visionary leadership and exceptional expertise, has significantly influenced the industry. The focus will be on the tangible outcomes of these strategies, highlighting the company's ability to innovate, lead, and leave a lasting impression in its field.

The Good track is focused on recognising companies dedicated to their mission of creating a positive societal impact. Entries should highlight innovative solutions aimed at addressing global challenges such as environmental sustainability, social equity, and community well-being. Successful submissions will demonstrate how their initiatives contribute to significant changes, tackling issues like gender inequality, social imbalance, and injustice, thereby setting a precedent for responsible and impactful business practices.

Awarded to a single entry in a category, Grand Prix is the top accolade in that category. To win the Grand Prix, the entire Judging Board must unanimously agree that the entry deserves the accolade of being the best in that category.

The Growth track is about showcasing how businesses have enhanced productivity and execution to make a significant impact in their market. Entries should highlight innovative strategies that have optimised the customer journey, leading to increased engagement and commercial success. This track is for those who have effectively used their understanding of the market and customer needs to scale their business and achieve notable growth.

The Operators track seeks entries that showcase leadership in fostering innovation within their ecosystems. Ideal submissions will highlight how your initiatives have catalysed the creation of new products or services, bolstered by a culture that uplifts internal teams and the wider community. This track celebrates those who drive progress by empowering voices and forging transformative connections in their industry.


  • Always Evolving New

    Acknowledges a culture of continuous learning and improvement within a company, encourages employee development, and always looks for ways to optimise and innovate operations.

  • Big & Mighty Culture New

    Recognises companies (51-1000 employees) for their exceptional efforts in cultivating a culture that champions innovation.

  • Diverse Co.

    Celebrates workplaces dedicated to fostering innovation through a vibrant tapestry of diverse talents and perspectives.

  • Small & Mighty Culture New

    Applauds small teams of fewer than 50 employees for their remarkable ability to foster innovation and set new benchmarks in their domain.

  • Work Sweet Work

    Acknowledges companies that have achieved extraordinary employee engagement, satisfaction, and retention, creating an exemplary workplace culture.

  • Company of the Year

    Honours an outstanding company that not only showcases exemplary leadership and resilience but also demonstrates a clear, quantifiable impact over the past year.

  • Customer Obsessed New

    Applauds prioritisation, understanding and meeting the needs and expectations of their customers, including feedback, personalised services and ensuring high satisfaction.

  • Defiant Ones

    Recognises firms that lead technological innovation, setting new standards and defining the future of their industries.

  • Hammer

    Celebrates companies that have not only defined success on their own terms but have also concretely demonstrated their triumphs over the past year.

  • I Wish I'd Done That

    Applauds ingenious, simple solutions in niche markets that spark a universal sentiment of admiration.

  • On the Rise

    Celebrates early-stage startups, under 4 years, that have shown remarkable progress and success in their initial years.

  • Prodigy

    Recognises young visionaries under 30 with outstanding talents and achievements, setting them apart in their fields.

  • Singularity

    Highlights AI-driven companies that are pioneering new services or integrating AI to create innovative products.

  • Women in Business

    Celebrates female entrepreneurs and leaders who are forging paths for future generations by creating more equitable opportunities.

  • B-Good

    Recognises businesses that redefine commercial success by positively transforming our economic system for the benefit of all stakeholders.

  • Circular Pioneer

    Celebrates companies at the forefront of circular economy practices, making substantial and sustainable differences.

  • Ethical Leadership New

    Commends companies exemplifying leadership in environmental and social governance, setting standards in corporate responsibility and ethical practices.

  • Going Green

    Acknowledges companies leading large-scale sustainable initiatives, addressing critical areas like clean energy and environmental justice.

  • Collab New

    Honours strategic partnerships and alliances with other businesses to leverage complementary strengths, access new markets, and share resources for synergistic growth and innovation.

  • Design First

    Celebrates companies where design is the heartbeat of innovation, engaging the whole team in crafting groundbreaking products.

  • Going Global New

    Applauds companies that have expanded their reach globally, showcasing exceptional growth and international success.

  • Great Pivot

    Acknowledges companies that adeptly navigate change, leveraging insights to pivot towards delivering outstanding products.

  • Movement

    Recognises unforgettable event experiences that resonate emotionally, drive social change, or achieve viral status.

  • New Model

    Honours businesses revolutionising markets with elegant and disruptive business models.

  • Next Level New

    Applauds companies which had successful strategic acquisition and integration of another entity, staff or an asset that allowed them to further grow and scale their services.

  • Wildfire

    Celebrates companies that have rapidly and significantly impacted their marketplace, online and offline, setting new standards for success.

  • Angel

    Honours visionary angel investors who've significantly contributed to early-stage startups, guiding them toward success.

  • C-Suite

    Recognises exceptional leadership qualities in high-ranking executives, showcasing their management and interpersonal excellence.

  • Creative Maverick New

    Honours unconventional thinkers with exceptional abilities to execute typically unimaginable initiatives, expertly coordinate teams, secure funding or successfully launch multiple ventures.

  • Ecosystem Star

    Celebrates individuals who energise and nurture their communities, fostering engagement and advocacy.

  • Future Builder

    Recognises the determination and resilience of founders who've embarked on the challenging journey of starting their own ventures.

  • Quiet Achiever New

    Applauds the unsung heroes whose behind-the-scenes efforts have led to flawless project executions and exceeded expectations.

  • Splash Down Under New

    Acknowledges international companies making a noteworthy entrance into the Australian market, enriching the local business ecosystem.

  • TopCoder

    Recognises developers for their outstanding technical skills, clean code, and collaborative spirit.

  • Venture Cap

    Salutes venture capital firms with a track record of backing transformative businesses, contributing significantly to Australia's economic growth.

  • Visionary New

    Recognises effective leadership by setting a clear vision, motivating the team, and making strategic decisions that guide their business towards its goals.

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