Despite national recognition of female entrepreneurs, Ireland suffers from a low number of women engaged in business startups. Female-led businesses remain an underdeveloped source of economic growth and jobs. As part of a drive to increase the number of female entrepreneurs in Galway, Mayo and Roscommon, GMIT Innovation Hubs will deliver a new regional programme called "EMPOWER", commencing September in GMIT’s Galway and Mayo campuses.
Funded by the Department of Justice and Equality and the European Social Fund, the EMPOWER programme aims to fast track female-led businesses by addressing specific challenges hindering their development.
Independent research [Fitzsimmons and O’Gorman (2016 ), the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM ) Ireland], shows great differences between men and woman involved in enterprise start-ups:
• Women launch businesses out of necessity where as men typically are driven by spotting opportunities or gaps in the market;
• Females tend to be more risk averse in their business approach;
• Males overestimate their own skills whereas females underestimate their capacities- this emphasises that confidence is a key skill requiring development.
Fitzsimons and O’Gorman (2016 ) observed over half of female entrepreneurs are focused solely on the home market, compared to one-third of men. They also observed a big difference between male and female entrepreneurs regarding their expectations to employ people within the next five years (74% of men compared to 62% of women ).
These issues present barriers to women starting or growing businesses. The EMPOWER Programme aims to tackle these scaling issues by providing the necessary tools and skills to grow businesses and opportunities to network and learn and learn from peers in a supportive environment.
The EMPOWER programme will help identify market opportunities, build confidence and assess skills to implement ideas or scale businesses.
The EMPOWER programme has two components:
1. “EMPOWER Start” is designed to test innovative ideas for market acceptance. EMPOWER Start is for females with an early stage idea or in business less than one year. This FREE programme will be delivered part-time over 12 weeks by start-up experts. This allows participants to balance their family commitments while at the same time planning and developing their new business. The programme rotates between Galway, Mayo and Roscommon. Learning is classroom based. The opportunity is to test your idea for customer acceptance.
2. “EMPOWER Growth” is focused on women who are already in business (2 years + ) and are now looking to scale and grow by providing support from peers, mentors and role models. The programme will be based on peer to peer learning and delivered by industry experts. It will be delivered over 11 half days on Saturday, once a month.
Both programme components will include specific mentoring and networking opportunities.
Maria Staunton, Manager of GMIT’s Mayo iHub and the EMPOWER programme, says: “During my time in GMIT’s Innovation Hubs I recognised the gap in the number of female versus male entrepreneurs. We don’t get enough females coming forward to look at developing their ideas. I really believe female-led businesses are an underexploited source for economic growth and jobs. Like most countries, Ireland has more male (63% ) than female (37% ) entrepreneurs. However the gap is decreasing – the rate of entrepreneurship for women in Ireland is 7th highest in Europe. Through EMPOWER, GMIT aims to further decrease this gap by delivering a valuable programme that will benefit and support female entrepreneurs in Galway. GMIT aims to further decrease this gap by delivering a valuable programme that will benefit and support female entrepreneurs in Galway, Mayo and Roscommon”.
The EMPOWER Programme will be launched on Wednesday, 13 September in The Connacht Hotel in Galway, from 4.30 to 7.30pm where high profile speakers including Breege O Donoghue, former CEO of Primark and Chair of the Design Council of Ireland, Evelyn O Toole, Complete Laboratory Solutions and Ernst & Young Finalists 2017, Chanelle McCoy, Chanelle Pharmaceuticals and Dragon’s Den, along with other female entrepreneurs, will tell their stories. Sports commentator and broadcaster Tracy Piggott will MC the evening.
“The event aims to inspire more early stage females to start a business and established businesses to expand. Women also in business are encouraged to come along to see what opportunities may arise. Challenges and opportunities faced by female entrepreneurs will be discussed on the evening before and after the event.” says Maria Staunton.
“EMPOWER’s launch event aims to inspire more early stage females to start a business and established businesses to expand. Women already in business are encouraged to come along to see what opportunities may arise. Challenges and opportunities faced by female entrepreneurs will be discussed on the evening before and after the event,” adds Maria Staunton.
The GMIT iHubs (established in 2006 ) are two Innovation Hubs based on the GMIT Campuses of Galway and Mayo. The iHubs provide entrepreneurs with office space, mentoring, business development supports, and streamlined access to GMIT’s Research and Development capacities – the supportive environment to progress business ideas from concept to commercial success. See http://www.gmit.ie/gmit-innovation-hubs
The EMPOWER project is co-funded by the Irish Government and the European Social Fund as part of the Programme for Employability, Inclusion and Learning 2014-2020'.