Female Entrepreneurs Need More Tailored Support

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A new report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has found that more tailored support is needed for women who wish to start or grow their business in Ireland.

The report ‘Supporting Women Entrepreneurs in Ireland’ highlighted that a significantly higher number of female entrepreneurs responded where targeted initiatives had been introduced.

One of the report authors, Professor Thomas Cooney (DIT), stated that:

“Similar to gender quotas in the Dail, we need to introduce more targeted initiatives for female entrepreneurs if Ireland wishes to have a genuine balance in terms of men and women starting a business.”

Identifying key characteristics of female entrepreneurship in Ireland, the report found that 6.1% of our population are female entrepreneurs; with twice as many men starting a business. Statistically, a large portion of female businesses are locally traded services,prof-thomas-cooney-dit which restricts their growth and international sales. While Ireland is ranked 15th in terms of female entrepreneurship in Europe, it was found that fear of failure, financial restrictions and childcare concerns are major obstacles.

The report found a need for more financial support amongst women who operate in the local service sector. Enterprise Ireland offers customised financial programmes through the ‘Competitive Feasibility Fund’ and the ‘Competitive Start Fund’, highlighting how targeted support can significantly impact this industry.

Networking support and peer learning programmes are also quite well-developed and targeted towards supporting business development and growth. Despite these initiatives, there is significant potential to offer more support to women developing their businesses, such as risk management and business growth programmes.

While many of these findings are commonly found in other countries, it was suggested that culture is having a negative effect on women starting their own business in Ireland.

“There is no reason why we cannot have gender quotas on international trade missions”, mentions Professor Cooney.

“Dedicated co-working spaces for female entrepreneurs in larger urban areas, innovative microfinance schemes, and a range of other initiatives could be easily introduced without a high cost to Government”.

The report identifies key policy recommendations including:

  • Additional support in networking, management, risk management and international growth
  • Improved maternity benefits and unemployment benefit
  • Improved access to childcare
  • Scale-up well-established women’s entrepreneurship support initiatives

This report presents an overview of current and planned support for women’s entrepreneurship in Ireland. It provides an assessment of the key strengths and weaknesses of current and planned offerings in the areas of entrepreneurship skills, access to finance and the regulatory and institutional environment. The full report can be viewed at http://www.oecd.org/cfe/leed/RPA-Ireland-women-FINAL.pdf