Against a backdrop of global economic recession, high production costs and increased international competition, the performance, survival and growth of small businesses is high on the global political agenda. However, like many other nations, Ireland is lagging behind in terms of a co‐ordinated approach to the specific challenge of supporting women‐owned ventures, hence possibly reducing their opportunity to act as economic agents. Based on a review of growth‐oriented support programmes for women in business in Ireland, this short viewpoint seeks to identifiy a number of gaps in the current support system and to propose a range of possible alternative intervention strategies that the authors believe can help facilitate business growth.
Using secondary data, a review of the current government support programmes was carried out. Further, evidence obtained through an in‐depth qualitative study of 33 women entrepreneurs in Ireland and Northern Ireland which identified a number of specific barriers inhibiting the development of these firms was used.
The analysis of current government practices revealed that whilst women are making progress in starting more businesses in Ireland, the current statistics indicate that they still tend to start small and stay small. This points towards a need to reassess and understand the issue of growth among women entrepreneurs and, in doing so, develop new mechanisms that can have real impact on growth‐oriented women‐owned firms whilst also respecting and supporting those who choose not to grow their business. The qualitative study identified a number of specific barriers, which hinder the development of their firms. These included financial, regulatory and employability challenges; a lack of management skills and confidence. Motherhood and personal goals were also found to be inhibiting factors for women entrepreneurs.
The paper proposes a number of possible government and personal intervention strategies to overcome the identified barriers. These include encouraging lending within the small growth sectors, conducting a regional skills audit, reducing the administration and paperwork associated with trading and accessing support and develop customised training and up‐skilling designed to meet the specific needs of women entrepreneurs.
The paper argues that government agencies in Ireland must now act on the evidence provided and confront the issues affecting women entrepreneurs.
Fleck, E., Hegarty, C. and Neergaard, H. (2011), "The politics of gendered growth", International Journal of Gender and Entrepreneurship, Vol. 3 No. 2, pp. 164-173. https://doi.org/10.1108/17566261111140224
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