Our website uses cookies to enhance your browsing experience and to collect information about how you use this site to improve our service to you. By not accepting cookies some elements of the site, such as video, will not work. Please visit our Cookie Policy page for more information on how we use cookies.

What We Do

Female Entrepreneurship

Promoting Female entrepreneurship is increasingly viewed as a key source of job creation and innovation and a necessary step for addressing income inequality and social exclusion.

According to the GEM report 2019, the rate of early stage entrepreneurship in Ireland grew significantly in 2019. This was driven by an increase in the rate at which both men and women were early stage entrepreneurs. The rate for men, however increased more significantly than it did for women.  The rate at which women aspire to start a business (15%), while still less than that for men (23%), when expressed as a ratio (1.6:1) bodes well for the future.

The Department of Enterprise , Trade and Employment  has a broad and comprehensive range of initiatives to encourage, support and develop women in leadership in business and female entrepreneurship. These include, for example, Women in Business Networks run by the Local Enterprise Offices, the Competitiveness Start-Up Fund and the Fuelling Ambition Programme, both run by Enterprise Ireland, the Female High Fliers Programme at the DCU Ryan Academy, the Going for Growth programme, the Acorns programme, which has a particular focus on female-led start-ups in rural areas.

The LEOs host National Women’s Enterprise Day annually to highlight success stories and encourage more women to access enterprise supports and to ‘open doors to new markets’ for their businesses. All 31 LEOs are behind the initiative and they enlist the help of established entrepreneurs to act as Regional Ambassadors, to share their success stories at the events.

What is the cause of the gap in female entrepreneurship?

We know the reasons why women are currently significantly under-represented in entrepreneurship are multi-faceted, complex and inter-linked. They include factors such as an under-representation of females in senior management positions in industry, a greater fear of failure and aversion to risk, male oriented design of eco-system supports and a lack of visible role models.

What have we done?

Addressing the under representation of female-led businesses that start a business and achieve considerable scale, requires a tailored, focussed approach in terms of support, personal development and networking opportunities.

Enterprise Ireland's Female Entrepreneurship Unit was established to support ambitious women grow scalable businesses and to address the key challenges impacting on the growth of female led business opportunities.

Enterprise Ireland's website has a dedicated Female Entrepreneurship page where you can learn more about their supports for female entrepreneurs.

In January 2020, the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation launched Enterprise Ireland’s new ‘Women in Business Action Plan’ which set out 24 actions to be progressed to support the scaling of female led businesses, increase start-up rate among females, support recruitment of part-time senior managers by business and to highlight role models and good practice. 


Since the introduction in 2013 of measures targeting women, the number of women who are setting up their own businesses has grown year-on-year.

In 2012, just eight out of 97 participating high potential start-ups were female-led (8%) which has increased to 23.75% in 2020, when 19 of the 80 participating in the programme were female led.

EI Statistics 2020




High Potential Start Up





































Local Enterprise Office activity in Female Networking and Mentoring

Progress has been made: For example, in 2015, 57% of participants attending core training programmes in Local Enterprise Offices were female. This increased to 60% in 2020.

Useful resources

SupportingSMEs.gov.ie is a cross-governmental guide to help small businesses know which of the over 170 Government supports could possibly fit their business.

By answering the questions in the Supporting SMEs Online Tool, a small business will:

  • Identify which of the 170+ Government business supports from 27 Government Departments, Agencies and Initiatives are applicable to them
  • Get information on the range of Government supports for accessing credit
  • Find their nearest Local Enterprise Office where they can discuss the outcomes of the guide further
  • Download their customised results for further use

While this Online Tool is focussed on state-funded supports the Department has also compiled a broader index of supports which includes privately funded programmes and facilities in the Mapping of Support for Entrepreneurs. 

This index contains over 700 entries and includes a section specifically focussed on supports for women entrepreneurs.

The National Association of Community Enterprise Centres (NACEC) primary role is to support and develop the interests of 117 community enterprise centres on a national basis. Many centres were developed in areas of low employment and population.

WEgate, is a new gateway for women's entrepreneurship in Europe supported by the European Commission.

2016 OECD Rapid Policy Assessment on Supporting Women Entrepreneurs in Ireland: oecd.org/cfe/leed/RPA-Ireland-women-FINAL.pdf

Kauffman Foundation Female Entrepreneurship Information: kauffman.org/key-issues/women-in-entrepreneurship


Selection of supports for Female Entrepreneurs

Network Irelandnetworkireland.ie
Women in Businesslocalenterprise.ie/DublinCity/Start-or-Grow-your-Business/Networking/Women-in-Business/Network-Events/
Enterprising Women Networklocalenterprise.ie/DLR/Training-Events/Business-Networks/Enterprising-Women/

Going for Growthgoingforgrowth.com

Training ProgramsWebsite
LEOs ‘Start Your Own Business’ programslocalenterprise.ie
DCU Ryan Academy ‘High Fliers’


Women Mean Businesswomenmeanbusiness.com
Women's Enterprise Awards (LEOs)localenterprise.ie