I have a long-standing focus on seeing an increase in the numbers of women in business and women becoming entrepreneurs. As recognised in Future Jobs Ireland, increasing female participation is a vital way to grow the diversity and strength of our indigenous business sector.
My Department, and 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 a previous 8th position in Europe for the rate of female entrepreneurship in the 2018 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) Report, there is more we can achieve.
My Department, together with Enterprise Ireland (EI) 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 programmes run by the LEOs.
The LEOs actively engage in encouraging and inspiring female-led businesses through initiatives such as the annual National Women’s Enterprise Day and the Women in Business Networks.
On October 17th , over 1,600 female entrepreneurs attended 17 strategically organised LEO events to celebrate their National Women’s Enterprise Day. Each year this event gains further momentum, encouraging the promotion of female entrepreneurship, showcasing what supports are available to women in business. All 31 LEOs were behind the initiative and they enlisted the help of established entrepreneurs to act as Regional Ambassadors, to share their success stories at the events.
This growth in popularity has been reflected in the national growth in female entrepreneurship. In 2018, 22,000 business women availed of LEO-led mentoring and training programmes specifically targeted towards female entrepreneurship - this represented a 19% increase on similar targeted services in 2017.
EI has also developed a series of female accelerator programmes in partnership with knowledge providers such as Going for Growth, the National Digital Research Centres (NDRC) Female Founders Programme, Dublin BIC Innovate, and DCU Ryan Academy Female Highfliers.
To promote and support the number of women working in business and becoming entrepreneurs, I have asked Enterprise Ireland to review and bring forward a new Female Entrepreneurship Strategy. 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.
EI’s new strategy will also 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. Showcasing female entrepreneur role models and highlighting female achievements in enterprise are essential to encouraging more women to establish a business.
I, and my Department, have worked intensively to shine a light of female entrepreneurship through identification and promotion of female role models with targeted events and awards including Network Ireland’s "Business Networking for Women Across Ireland", the 30% Club, and the Planet Woman Academy.
The implementation of this strategy has had a positive impact on the number of female founders, for example increasing by 15% the number of female founders of High Potential Start Ups across the period 2011 to 2018. To build on the success of this strategy, Enterprise Ireland is finalising a new Women in Enterprise Strategy . This strategy will be published in January 2020.
I, and my Department and its Agencies, will continue to advocate and promote the importance of increasing representation of our female entrepreneurs amongst Ireland’s business ecosystem.