Belfast's first Female Investment Day helps combat gender investment gap

  • Photo: L-R John Ferris, Ulster Bank; Suzanne Wylie, BCC; Claudine Owens, Clarendon Fund Managers & Shane O'Hanlon, InterTrade Ireland

    More than 200 female entrepreneurs, investors and funders from across the UK attended Belfast’s first Female Investment Day yesterday, organised by Ulster Bank.

    The free to attend event was held in Belfast’s City Hall and was aimed at cutting the ‘gender investment gap’, which refers to the fact that only 1p in every £1 of venture capital funding in the UK goes towards female-led businesses.

    Many of the event’s speakers touched on how they had been affected by or had overcome the gender investment gap, providing practical tips and advice for entrepreneurs in the audience who may be struggling to access funding for their business.

    Representatives from many of the UK and Ireland’s largest private funding companies were also in attendance and discussed the skills and attributes they look for when choosing to invest in an early stage business.

    Other sessions at the event focused on some of the key areas for growing women-led businesses as identified in the Rose Review into female entrepreneurship. These include access to relatable role models, creating a broad network of contacts and getting access to external investment to fund growth.

    Released on International Women’s Day last year, the Rose Review identified that women make up only 33% of entrepreneurs in the UK and that achieving parity in start-up rates between men and women could generate an additional £250bn to the UK economy.

    At the event, the owner of organic hair products company We are Paradox, Yolanda Cooper took to the stage to share her own experience of accessing finance.

    “For many female entrepreneurs, accessing finance can be a struggle. Quite often, it’s difficult to get your product in front of investors but being part of a larger network or receiving mentorship from someone, can help to open doors for you.

    “Events like today showcase the importance of working collaboratively with other entrepreneurs and I know that without the support of such a close-knit network, my own experience with securing investment would have been much more difficult.”

    L-R John Ferris, Entrepreneur Development Manager, Ulster Bank; Yolanda Cooper, Owner of We Are Paradoxx and Claudine Owens, Portfolio Manager, Clarendon Fund Managers, taking part in 'My Investors and Me' panel discussion at Ulster Bank's Female Investment Day conference.

    The conference also heard from Ingrid Devin, Director of Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network (DWEN). Each year DWEN compiles the Women Entrepreneur Cities Index which rates the ability of 50 global cities to attract and support women entrepreneurs. Ingrid told the conference that Belfast has moved from number 36 in 2017 to number 28 in 2019.

    She said: “Belfast as a city is painting a positive picture when it comes to supporting female-led businesses. We are seeing improvements in the number of city-based businesses with at least 25% female executives and a growing percentage in the number of investment companies with at least 1 female executive. While this is to be commended, we want to see this level of growth sustained and hope Belfast continues to move up the ranks of the WE Index. ”

    John Ferris, Entrepreneur Development Manager at Ulster Bank, said: “At the Belfast Accelerator, one of our main objectives is to boost female entrepreneurs and as a bank we are proud to continue our leading role in building the people that build businesses.

    “By showing great examples of people who have been there and raised funding as well as senior funders who can articulate what they are looking for in an investable business idea, we hope to build a stronger network of female entrepreneurs who can work collaboratively to achieve their funding aims.”

    The event was delivered in partnership with Invest NI, Women in Business, Queen’s University Belfast, Dell Technologies and Belfast City Council.


    For more information on the event or to speak to Ulster Bank’s entrepreneurship team, contact

    About the author

    Niamh is a Sync NI writer with a previous background of working in FinTech and financial crime. She has a special interest in sports and emerging technologies. To connect with Niamh, feel free to send her an email or connect on Twitter.

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