It is very encouraging to see that the work of the Balance for Better Business Review Group, which includes the Secretary General of my Department and the CEOs of IDA and Enterprise Ireland among its members, has already begun to deliver tangible results. The recently published report shows that the proportion of women on Irish Boards has risen from 20.9% in March 2019 to 25.3% by September 2019 - above the target of 25% set for end 2020. There is a strong business case for better gender balance at senior management and board levels of Irish companies, and setting targets is an important step in achieving positive change in this area.
My Department is committed to supporting improved gender balance in the leadership teams at all stages of Irish businesses.
One of the objectives of my Department’s National Policy Statement on Entrepreneurship in Ireland is to promote female entrepreneurship through the identification and promotion of female role models, targeted events and awards, and support for female entrepreneur networks.
Both Enterprise Ireland and the Local Enterprise Offices have taken various steps to encourage female participation in entrepreneurship, such as Enterprise Ireland’s woman-only Competitive Start Fund and woman-specific training and mentoring run by the LEOs.
An important aspect of the LEO networking programme is the promotion of successful business women as role models, and the use of mentoring and networking opportunities which aims to build confidence in newly emerging women entrepreneurs.
The LEOs run a number of Women in Business Networks along with National Women’s Enterprise Day. In 2018, 63% of participants attending core training programmes in Local Enterprise Offices were women.
In 2018, of the 132 successful High-Potential Start-Up and Competitive Start funding draws, 29 of those successful outcomes went to female-led companies.
Another encouraging sign is an increase in angel capital going to female-led companies. Statistics from the Halo Business Angel Network show that 27% of deals financed by angel investors in the network went to businesses with at least one female founder in 2018, compared to 21% in 2017.
Of course, we want these figures to be higher and will work to achieve that.
As part of the Future Jobs Strategy, Enterprise Ireland will shortly be announcing their new Female Entrepreneurship Strategy, which will have an action plan to increase the rate of female entrepreneurship and the number of women in leadership roles in Irish businesses.
Finally, in November my Department announced a new postgraduate scholarship, in partnership with the Irish Research Council, to undertake research to develop an evidence base to support the development of policy to remove barriers and to create the supports needed to enable women to rise to the top of business and public service in Ireland.