As part of National Enterprise Week, 13-17 November, Invest Northern Ireland has launched a new programme of support called ‘Pathways to Female Entrepreneurship’ at a special conference held at the Ramada Hotel, Belfast.
Part of Invest NI’s ‘Investing in Women’ initiative, the programme has three distinct elements, path-finding, path-breaking and path-clearing all designed to improve access to business support for women and increase the level of female entrepreneurship across Northern Ireland.
Speaking at the event Tracy Meharg, Managing Director of Innovation and Capability Development at Invest NI, said:
“We have designed this new programme to help target those women in ‘harder to reach’ sectors to encourage them to consider starting a business. The programme also aims to encourage innovation and creativity in female entrepreneurship and to increase the number of women involved in sectors that are not seen as traditionally female. In addition the programme will ensure that the support offered to female entrepreneurs throughout NI is co-ordinated and effective.
The recently published Global Entrepreneurship Monitor 2005 (GEM) report indicates that there are around 14,500 women starting or running a business in NI compared to approximately 35,500 men. This represents an increase from 2004 with Northern Ireland no longer having the lowest rate of female entrepreneurial activity in the UK.
“There has been some positive progress here in the number of women engaging in entrepreneurial activity however they are still today only two fifths as likely as men to start a business. This clearly demonstrates that there is a strong need to offer both tailored and mainstream support if we are to redress this imbalance,” she continued.
At the event keynote speaker Ruth Badger from the BBC’s Apprentice programme discussed her experiences on the television series as well as the challenges of setting up her own specialist business support consultancy.
She was joined by Wendy McCaughan who described her business journey, designing and manufacturing equestrian body armour for women, that has global exporting potential.
Other speakers included Dr Janelle Shubert and Dr Anne Donnellen from Babson College, Boston experts in women’s leadership and development, alongside local entrepreneurs Moira Burke from Bio Kinetic Europe, Patricia O’Hagan from Core Systems (NI) Ltd and Maxine Eadie from Connect Software (NI) Ltd all of whom outlined their business experiences to date.
“We deliberately collected a wealth of female business talent for the conference to highlight what women are capable of and encourage more potential female entrepreneurs to take up the business challenge and get involved in enterprise,” continued Tracy.
Championed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, Enterprise Week 2006 is a UK wide series of events specifically designed to inspire people to be more enterprising and start or improve their business.