Women-led review launched into lack of funding opportunities for NI's female entrepreneurs

  • Photo: Founders of Women's Investor Ready Project Lisa Strutt & Nuala Murphy with Ulster Bank's Regional Ecosystem Manager John Ferris

    A lack of clarity around funding options; gender bias and exclusion from regional peer networks are some of the biggest barriers for female entrepreneurs in Northern Ireland, according to a new report.

    The Women’s Investor Ready Project [tWIRP], highlights the challenges which exist for businesswomen and explores what can be done to overcome these.

    The new alliance – made up of four of NI’s leading female entrepreneurs, Nuala Murphy; Alyson Hogg; Lisa Strutt and Grainne Kelly - has laid out its priorities for improving the landscape for female entrepreneurs and is calling for employers, investors, and business leaders to address the cultural bias which exists for women in workplaces across the region.

    Their report drew data from over 100 respondents with firsthand experience of starting or scaling a business in NI, across a number of industries and from women at varying stages of their entrepreneurial journeys.

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    Key findings suggest that female entrepreneurs value regional peer networks but often feel excluded from these and struggle with reaching networks beyond the NI market.

    While many contributors had experience of an accelerator programme, some felt these programmes could improve their skills in the sectors embraced by women.

    Clear understanding around funding options continues to create difficulties for those trying to raise capital and almost all participants repeatedly noted very clear examples of gender bias when seeking funding.

    In a joint statement, the representatives of tWIRP said: "Now we know the common challenges women are facing, we can begin to implement some targeted solutions.

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    "We want to deliver services which not only support the entrepreneur with existing challenges but will include strategies to become more investor ready. Part of this will include establishing a mentor-matching scheme; pairing mentors who have relevant experience, skills and access with entrepreneurs who will benefit most from this engagement and creating a central hub where individuals can find all the information they need about the range of support, services and funding available.

    “Finally, by coming together we want to create a louder voice for female entrepreneurs in Northern Ireland and press decision makers to implement policies and legislative changes that will help unlock this untapped potential.

    "Inadequate childcare provision, issues around bias and a fundamental lack of understanding have all contributed to women taking a back seat and we simply cannot allow this underrepresentation to continue. We are ready to work with all of our partners, business organisations, chambers of commerce, and other relevant stakeholders to create a more progressive entrepreneurial landscape and see real change take hold.”

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    Ulster Bank is one of the first organisations to pledge support for the project and has welcomed the initiative’s commitment to following up on the government-backed Rose Review which was spearheaded by now CEO of the NatWest Group, Alison Rose.

    John Ferris, Regional Ecosystem Manager said: “As one of the earliest providers of a business accelerator programme, we are particularly focused on the feedback and learnings within this space and look forward to working with the team at tWIRP to implement some of the report’s recommendations to ensure that female entrepreneurs are well positioned to compete for and access the same funding opportunities as their male counterparts.”

    Other supporters of the initiative include Women in Business; Belfast City Council and InterTradeIreland.

    To view the full report, visit www.investorreadyproject.org or follow @investorreadyni to keep up to date with the initiative.

    For more information on Ulster Bank’s accelerator programme including details on how to apply, visit www.ulsterbank.com/accelerator .

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