Female Entrepreneurship

Female Entrepreneurship

The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) Report for Ireland for 2011 (published in 2012) shows that men are more active as early stage entrepreneurs than women. The rate of early stage entrepreneurship among men is 10.3 per cent, almost two and a half times more than the rate of early stage entrepreneurship among women at 4.2 per cent. The level of early stage entrepreneurship among women in Ireland at 4.2 per cent is at a similar level across the EU (5.1 per cent) and the OECD (5.8 per cent), however, it is significantly behind the rate in Australia (8.4 per cent) and the United States (10.4 per cent). The table below shows that early stage entrepreneurship by women in Ireland grew between 2006 and 2007 before falling back sharply in 2008 with a further slight decrease in 2010 and again in 2011.


Percentage of adult women engaged in early stage entrepreneurship












United States






Average across the OECD






Average across the EU






Source: Entrepreneurship in Ireland 2011, Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM)

On a more positive note, the GEM Report shows that in 2010 women accounted for† 29 per cent of early stage entrepreneurs in Ireland compared with 26 per cent in† 2008.†† The rate of female established owner managers in Ireland at 5.2 per cent is also higher than the OECD (4.2 per cent) and EU-15 (4.1 per cent) averages.

In 2010, the differences in attitudes of women and men towards entrepreneurship were as follows:

• More men were likely to know someone who had become an entrepreneur in the previous two years (42 per cent) than women were (27 per cent);
• More men were confident that they had the necessary skills and knowledge to start a business (57 per cent) than women (42 per cent);
• A higher proportion of women (43 per cent) than men (34 per cent) reported that a fear of failure would prevent them from starting a business.

The GEM Report notes that a broadly similar proportion of male (78 per cent) and female (74 per cent) early stage entrepreneurs in Ireland expect to become an employer within five years as a result of their entrepreneurial activities. However, a greater proportion of male (16 per cent) than female early stage entrepreneurs (8 per cent) have significant growth ambitions for their new businesses. A much higher proportion of male early stage entrepreneurs (69 per cent) are focused on export markets than are female early stage entrepreneurs (51 per cent).

Previous GEM Reports have highlighted the fact that early stage entrepreneurs tend to be highly educated with a very high proportion of women early stage entrepreneurs having post secondary education. This trend is continued in 2010 with 86 per cent of female early stage entrepreneurs recorded as having post secondary education compared with 74 per cent of male early stage entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurship in Ireland 2011 - Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) Report

Initiatives and Supports for Female Entrepreneurship

The Equality for Women Measure (EWM)

The purpose of the Equality for Women Measure is to make funding available to foster the engagement and advancement of women and gender equality in a number of economic sectors by focusing on three main strands:

1. Access to Employment;
2. Developing Female Entrepreneurship;
3. Career Development for Women in Employment.

The Measure is supported by the European Social Fund under the Human Capital Investment Operational Programme (HCIOP) 2007-2013. The Measure is delivered by Pobal Ltd. on behalf of the Department of Justice and Equality.

The EWM was relaunched in 2010 and included a strand to make funding available to support women as entrepreneurs.† Fifty three project applications were submitted and following evaluation ten were selected for funding, to receive a total of more than €393,000 in ESF and Exchequer funding.

Since 2009, over 11,346 (consisting of 8,940 women in Strand 1, Strand 2, 2,070† and Strand 3, 336) women have participated on the programme, with 2012 EWM projects alone revealing a total of 3,173 women participants.

More†Equality for Women Measure

Going for Growth Initiative

The Going for Growth Initiative was launched in October 2007. The Initiative is supported by Enterprise Ireland and receives grant support from the European Social Fund (ESF) and the Irish Exchequer under the Equality for Women Measure. Bank of Ireland is also supporting the 5th cycle of Going for Growth.

The Initiative aims to support women entrepreneurs with a clear aspiration for growth by providing peer support and the leadership of a more experienced or Lead Entrepreneur. Volunteer Lead Entrepreneurs include Colette Twomey, Chief Executive and co-founder of the Clonakilty Black Pudding Co., Mary McKenna, Managing Director of Tour America, and Lulu O’Sullivan, founder and Chief Executive of GiftsDirect.com. Former lead entrepreneurs continue to be associated with Going for Growth by serving on the advisory panel to further develop and strengthen the Initiative.

In order to be considered suitable for participation, entrepreneurs must already be the owner manager of a business which has been trading for at least two years.† Participants are grouped by stage of development with a matched group of their peers in structured sessions, which are led by Lead Entrepreneurs over a six month period.

In 2013, 60 female entrepreneurs are participating in a new cycle of Going for Growth. Over the previous four cycles, over 200 female entrepreneurs have participated in the Initiative.

For further information and to download a brochure please visit http://www.goingforgrowth.com/

National Women's Enterprise Day

The 6th annual National Women’s Enterprise Day took place in October 2012 at the Portlaoise Heritage Hotel. This event, which is hosted by the County and City Enterprise Boards, received grant support from the European Social Fund (ESF) and the Irish Exchequer under the Equality for Women Measure. The event offers support to women who are already in business and to those who are thinking of starting a business and provides an opportunity to network and to avail of enterprise supports.

Over 300 female entrepreneurs participated in the event. Keynote speakers included a number of prominent national and international entrepreneurs, including Dr. Maureen Gaffney, Clinical Psychologist, Ms. Mary McKenna M.D. of Tour America. The Minister for Disability, Equality, Mental Health and Older People Ms. Kathleen Lynch T.D., also addressed the conference.

Enterprise Ireland

The Entrepreneurship and Regional Development Unit in Enterprise Ireland is evaluating various promotional programmes and 'Start your own Business' courses aimed at female entrepreneurs. The Unit is also researching the main factors which contribute towards female owned High Potential Start Ups in Ireland and international comparisons for female owned SMEs.

In July 2012 the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Mr Richard Bruton TD, announced the establishment by Enterprise Ireland of a €250K Competitive Feasibility Fund aimed at stimulating high potential business start-ups by female entrepreneurs. This initiative is part of a drive by Enterprise Ireland to boost the number of innovative, export-oriented businesses being led and set up by female entrepreneurs.

The Minister further announced in October 2012 the establishment by Enterprise Ireland of a new €500,000 Competitive Start Fund for Female Entrepreneurs. These announcements mark the delivery of a key measure under the Action Plan for Jobs 2012, and is aimed at supporting growth in female entrepreneurship.

The Female Entrepreneurship Competitive Feasibility Fund is designed to assist female entrepreneurs to investigate the viability of a new growth orientated business that can succeed in global markets. The focus is on developing new businesses that can move beyond the domestic market and demonstrate real potential for internationalisation.


City and County Enterprise Boards

County and City Enterprise Boards have been very successful at attracting the active participation of women in their range of training programmes such as Start your Own Business courses and Management Development Programmes. During 2011, over 27,000 people participated on these training programmes of whom 56% were female.