I have a longstanding focus on seeing an increase in the numbers of women in business and women becoming entrepreneurs. As recognised in Future Jobs, increasing female participation is a vital way to grow the diversity and strength of our indigenous business sector.
My Department, and the Government as a whole, continue to monitor and assess the number of women in business. While I welcome Ireland’s recent improvement to 5th from 8th in Europe for the rate of female entrepreneurship in the 2018 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) Report, there is more we can achieve. My Department with Enterprise Ireland and the Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) have introduced a number of initiatives to increase female participation in business, such as EI's female-only Competitive Start Up Fund and female specific training and mentoring run by the LEOs. Enterprise Ireland has also developed a series of female accelerator programmes in partnership with knowledge providers such as Going for Growth and the National Digital Research Centres (NDRC) Female Founders Programme.
This spotlight on female entrepreneurship resulted in a doubling in the proportion of EI female-led high-potential startups from 11% in 2011 to 28% in 2017.
I have asked EI to bring forward a new Female Entrepreneurship Strategy by the end of this year. This new strategy will have a specific focus on addressing barriers to women in business including attitudes to risk, access to finance, networking opportunities and visible role models.
The new strategy will include initiatives to support women progressing to senior levels in business and to improve the broader entrepreneurship policy environment for women. The strategy will also target an increase in the numbers of ambitious female led companies that scale in international markets and increasing the numbers of female founded high potential start-ups.