Foster: Female entrepreneurship a vast reserve of untapped potential

Northern Ireland’s female business leaders are role models who can inspire the next generation, Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster has said.

Speaking at the Clinton Centre International Summer School in Enniskillen, the Minister said increasing the level of female entrepreneurship was more important than ever.

Arlene Foster said: “We are all aware of the contribution women make to our economy, whether as business leaders, business people or in politics.

“However, women remain the largest under-represented group when it comes to enterprise in Northern Ireland. Despite the level of female entrepreneurship rising to a record high in 2011, Northern Ireland continues to have the lowest ratio of female to male entrepreneurial activity rate (38%) and is 10% lower than the UK as a whole.

“That means that there is a vast reserve of untapped potential which could become an even more significant driver of the Northern Ireland economy.

“The Northern Ireland Executive’s Economic Strategy sets out the steps that we need to take to grow the private sector and improve our economic competitiveness. We need to encourage a greater number of people to start new, innovative, globally focused businesses and Invest Northern Ireland’s recently launched Regional Start Initiative aims to do just that.

“Throughout Northern Ireland we have some fantastic female business leaders that are successful role models who can inspire others.”

The Minister was giving the opening address at the Summer School’s Panel Day, entitled ‘Women in Society’, to an audience of 60 local women and young people, international young leaders from 10 countries, alongside delegates and key note speakers from Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland and the USA.

Arlene Foster added: “I am confident that the knowledge, networks and new connections which today’s conference offers will play a valuable role in building confidence across the business community, and in creating a vibrant culture of entrepreneurial spirit.”