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Opinion: On Nollaig na mBan, we strive to celebrate Irish women in business

Emily and Lucy O’Connor felt there wasn’t enough being done for Irish women in business, so they decided to do something about that.

IRELAND HAS MADE great strides in gender equality both economically and socially. As a nation, we rank 7th in EU Member States with a score in 2019 of 71.3.

However, Ireland has the highest gender gap in self-employment in the EU. Women are underrepresented in the field of entrepreneurship and account for only 10% of total Venture Capital funding in Ireland. This is a worrying figure given the fact that women form 50.39% of the population.

In recent years we have seen the increase of female business leaders in the public spotlight but there is still a lot of work to be done in order to create an equal playing field in entrepreneurship.

The mountains women climb

Women often face pressures not only from the same places as men but also have the extra burden of often being the primary caregiver for the family. Furthermore, the Rose Review in the UK found that women at all stages of entrepreneurship face challenges such a bias and lack of female representation in venture capital firms.

Covid-19 has only exacerbated the pressures that many women face when trying to set-up their own business. The International Monetary Fund recently announced that the progression towards equality in economics for women could be set back by up to 30 years due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In response to these factors, we established Boss Ladies at the end of September 2020.

Our mission with Boss Ladies Ireland is to change the landscape of entrepreneurship for women in Ireland. Having grown up in Ireland we have witnessed first hand the great start-up and tech ecosystem we have in this country but we have also seen the lack of female representation in this ecosystem.

Emily, working in the tech industry, has seen equality at entry-level jobs in this sector but has noticed that as women move further up the pecking order, this equality begins to disappear.

In her University courses both here in Ireland and abroad, Lucy has noticed that good entrepreneurs and innovative leaders are more likely to be men rather than women and in many cases, examples of female entrepreneurs are completely omitted.

At Boss Ladies Ireland, we want to increase the number and visibility of female entrepreneurs so that young girls have role models and a community to join when they start their own venture.

Julie Sinnamon CEO, Enterprise Ireland has noted the importance of “harnessing the full talent and expertise of our diverse population” to increase economic growth and improve business within Ireland. By fully utilising the diverse skill set and thinking that women can bring, Ireland can fuel its own economic growth and economic sustainability. 

Support is key

At Boss Ladies Ireland, we offer support to female-owned businesses in a number of different ways. Firstly, we are building a community of strong female entrepreneurs where we can support one another. 

As the Seanfhocal goes “Ni neart a cur le cheile”. We want to make sure that we are empowering one another especially in an area where women are underrepresented. 

Secondly, we are offering on our Instagram page free promotion to female-owned businesses (currently over 4,500 followers). The idea behind this is to give exposure to local female businesses in Ireland using social media platforms to reach as many people as possible.

Additionally, we are providing “Tips and Tricks” where we offer practical advice for any female entrepreneur who is building a business irrespective of whether the business is at the start-up stage or is an established business that is trying to expand and make its name and that of the female entrepreneur on social media and in e-commerce.

An e-directory

Lastly, we have built an online directory for all the Boss Ladies of Ireland. With our online directory, we are offering a paid listing for female-owned businesses. We want to make it easy to support female-owned businesses with the click of the button.

In the lead up to Christmas, we set up a virtual market where female-run businesses are promoted each weekend from now until Christmas.

With all the restrictions currently in place due to the Covid 19 pandemic, we are offering an alternative way for female-run businesses to tap into the virtual world and expand their profile and business to communities that would not previously have known about their ventures.

It’s clear that there’s a need for the support we are offering at Boss Ladies Ireland. In the first month following the establishment of our Instagram page, we had over 3000 followers and over 400 businesses signed up.

Our numbers are continuing to grow as other female entrepreneurs become aware of the Boss Ladies Community. Enterprise Ireland has done great work in expanding the resources available to female-led ventures through its competitive start-fund and Female Entrepreneur day.

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But from our audience, we have found the most important thing to them is a sense of community and having other people in a similar situation to themselves. As we move into the end of 2021′s Nollaig na mBan, we hope that this year, despite all the challenges we face, will be a positive year for Irish women in business. Stay tuned for the next few months as we expand and grow our support networks across the country. 

Emily and Lucy O’Connor are founders of Boss Ladies Ireland. For more, check out bossladiesireland.ie and Instagram.

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