One of things that has been brought home to me in my first year living on the island is the entrepreneurial nature of people here. The ability to do business and export is deeply in the DNA of every community. So I don’t understand why we seem so much less developed in creating women-led businesses? The statistics speak for themselves. In the USA women are in the majority of entrepreneurs and women-led businesses have an astounding turnover of $1.9 trillion and employ 12.8m people. This is also true in UK where the percentage is 46%. And yet Ireland has less than 18% of its businesses led by women. Imagine the power that could bring to the island’s economy if we could get that to 50%!
Hold the front page – women and men are different. Life is enriched by the differences between individuals so we need to embrace, celebrate and support those differences. In business those differences are prominent in research, that shows for example women starting more lifestyle businesses than men. Research also shows that women plan more, are more risk averse and less confident of success. I hesitate to generalise as I know many confident, women risk takers who have great businesses, but we need to try and understand how we help redress the gender balance for the benefit of everyone.
In some countries women had to die before winning the right to vote. In others it would take a world war before women were accepted into the work place. It took legislation in most countries to bring equal pay and opportunity. The female entrepreneur was once a rare sight and thankfully has become much more prominent. Ireland’s recent economic crisis represents a perfect opportunity to redress the gender balance in business. The biggest boost we can give the island’s economy is to encourage the untapped potential of women entrepreneurship and get that number to 50%.
I would love to see not just an export-led recovery but a women-led recovery. We are already great exporters and if we could support the creation and expansion of increasing numbers of women-led businesses alongside supporting the existing entrepreneurship on the island then we really could make a difference. I hope Business Women Can will be a part of helping to make that happen.