Enterprise Ireland believes that Ireland’s economic success will be driven by harnessing a strong entrepreneurial ecosystem which utilises the skills, ambition and talent of a diverse population.
Research has shown that globally, businesses with gender balance in their leadership teams have been proven to enjoy an overall improved business performance, with benefits such as higher sales growth, higher levels of productivity, increased innovation and better profits. Enhancing the gender balance of senior teams in businesses can also help to develop strong leadership and attract talent in what is an increasingly competitive environment.
Increasing the opportunities for women entrepreneurs and women in management is a strong focus for Enterprise Ireland. A key objective of our six-year Women in Business Strategy is to grow the number of women becoming entrepreneurs and improve the participation of women in senior leadership.
Progress is now clear. In 2011, only 7pc of Enterprise Ireland’s high-potential startups were led by women, but this figure had risen to 37pc in 2022. And female participation on the successful Leadership for Growth programme has also increased, rising from 10pc to 24pc in recent years.
We are conscious there is more to achieve, including in the area of gender balance in senior teams.
One such initiative focused on supporting companies to develop gender balanced leadership teams is Enterprise Ireland’s The Level Project.
Launched in November 2021 it is an ambitious initiative to encourage and support Irish companies to put in place practical actions that will improve gender balance in senior teams and on their boards.
The project toolkit is available online to all businesses, who can use it to assess their current situation and create an action plan around gender diversity challenges they encounter.
The six themes for diversity assessment in the toolkit are: strategy, measure, attract, retain, engage, and develop. Under each theme are questions, with tangible actions businesses can take and links to helpful resources and insights.
By completing the online toolkit, organisations can develop an action plan that is tailored to the specific needs and challenges of their company.
Enterprise Ireland has launched the Level Project Consultancy Grant (80pc funding), for client companies to engage a diversity expert to support their development once the action plan has been established.
The Level Project is just one example of our work. Enterprise Ireland last year collaborated with the Irish Venture Capital Association on a pilot programme of events focused on supporting innovative women-led companies with high growth potential seeking venture capital finance, helping them to make their companies ready for investment. Another such event is planned for 2023.
If you go to levelproject.ie you can find the free toolkit.
Sinead Lonergan is Women in Business Manager at Enterprise Ireland