Invest NI Pathclearing Initiative – opening pathways through the business support network for women

Invest NI’s Investing in Women Strategy has helped to increase rates of female entrepreneurs in Northern Ireland over the last three years.  However, still only 1 in 20 women in Northern Ireland think about starting a business compared to 1 in 11 men, and 1 in 14 women in the rest of the UK.

Research shows that attitude is an important factor in starting a business – your own attitude and the attitudes of others towards you. Despite ability and skills, women tend to lack confidence and have a greater fear of failure than men. They benefit from finding the right information and support at the right time to help them progress their business idea.  However, consistent feedback from female entrepreneurs is that the business support system is fragmented and not always female friendly in its attitude to them.  

Claire Herron of Invest NI’s Entrepreneurship Development team says: “Women report that they find it hard to identify and source where they can get help. We know that women use many diverse sources of support on their business journey – from community organisations, further and higher education institutes, banks and accountants, networks and mentors, women’s groups to enterprise agencies and specialist support initiatives. The Pathclearing Initiative is aimed at improving the connections between business support providers to make it easier to access support, and ultimately increase the level of female entrepreneurship.”

Experience has shown that when Invest NI brings the network of business support providers together, it benefits everyone through the exchange of information, services, knowledge and contacts.  A cohesive network of support providers can respond to requests for help either at the first point of contact or through signposting or directing the person to someone else.

The Pathclearing initiative, which is funded under the European Social Fund within the Northern Ireland Programme for Building Sustainable Prosperity, has started with an online survey of over 500 existing business support organisations in each of the five Invest NI regional areas. This will measure the level of connectedness between organisations.  This survey will be repeated in early 2008 to measure any changes. Female entrepreneurs are being interviewed about their experience of the business support system and this will be shared with the business support providers to help them market their services more effectively.

The feedback report on the first survey will be the focus of the first network meetings which are scheduled for the following dates and locations:

  • Silver Birch Hotel, Omagh - March 7 2007, 9.30 am - 11.30am

  • Invest NI HQ, Bedford Street - March 13 2007, 9.30 am - 11.30am

  • Armagh City Hotel - March 22 2007, 9.30 am - 11.30am

  • Radisson Roe, Limavady - March 28 2007, 9.30 am - 11.30am

  • Tullyglass Hotel, Ballymena - March 29 2007, 9.30 am - 11.30am

For further information and to book onto one of the events contact Anne McMurray Consulting Ltd who is managing this initiative on behalf of Invest NI. For further information contact Anne by emailing or see the website