Time to unleash potential of women entrepreneurs
Shortage of start-ups led by women is national problem affecting economic growth
This could be expanded to include a network of business angels looking to invest in the business ideas of other women.
Many women face considerable childcare costs and the need to balance the demands of business with the responsibilities of looking after a household. Figures from the Central Statistics Office highlight the fact that while women begin their working life with higher participation rates than men, this participation drops drastically when they have children. This is partly attributable to the fact that childcare costs in Ireland are among the highest in Europe.
We know there is no fairy wand to wave to deal with the childcare issue but in advance of a full rollout of a second year of free preschool provision we should look at targeting some additional resources to support people with caring responsibilities who are working to translate a new business idea into success.
I am greatly encouraged by the Government’s acceptance in principle earlier this month in the Seanad of my Bill to enable a mother and father to share the 26-week maternity leave period if they so wish. I was also heartened by the support the Bill received from all parties in the Seanad and I look forward to the proposal becoming law early next year.
Our traditional culture and State ideology appears hostile to private enterprise in a way which adversely affects men and women entrepreneurs. One example is the treatment of the entrepreneur whose business has failed. Such persons are not entitled to any social welfare assistance despite paying PRSI over the year. While the employees are rightly entitled to social welfare support, the person who created the jobs is not.
I strongly support the proposition that if an entrepreneur has made sufficient PRSI contributions they should have an entitlement to jobseeker’s benefit should their business not succeed.
The shortage of female entrepreneurs in Ireland is not a “women’s” problem, to be solved for the benefit of women and to address issues of equality. It is a national problem that affects the economic growth and development of our country. Let’s do everything we can to celebrate the outstanding female entrepreneurs we already have and break down the barriers for those who want to emulate them.
I wholeheartedly support the sentiment expressed by Hillary Clinton when she told the Women in the World Summit in Washington DC last April that “no country can achieve its full potential when women are left out or left behind”.
Senator Mary White is the author of a Fianna Fáil policy paper entitled Promoting Women Entrepreneurs in Ireland published this week. Ms White is also co-founder of Lir Chocolates