Women’s EMPOWER entrepreneurship programme heads online this summer

Galway Daily business Women's EMPOWER entrepreneurship programme heads online this summer

The women’s entrepreneurship EMPOWER programme delivered by GMIT across the west of Ireland is going online when it returns this June due to ongoing Covid-19 restrictions.

The EMPOWER entrepreneurship programme has been running in the Galway and Mayo GMIT iHubs since 2017 to support women in the west of Ireland establishing businesses.

Last year the programme rolled out in Sligo, Leitrim and Donegal under the Connacht-Ulster Alliance.

GMIT President Dr Orla Flynn says “In Ireland, female-led businesses remain an underdeveloped source of economic growth and jobs.

“Bringing more women entrepreneurs into the economy will help improve economic growth and stability and is particularly needed in the rural and peripheral West and North-West of Ireland.

Funded by the Department of Justice and Equality and the European Social Fund, the application deadline for this year’s programme has been extended to Friday, May 29.

All participants will need to have access to a device (PC or laptop) and have good broadband in order to fully participate in the online courses.

Selected participants will engage online in group discussions and in one-to-one mentoring sessions. Role models will also be introduced along with new modules on Leadership and Sales.

Maria Staunton, EMPOWER Programme Manager, says that it helps women to build confidence and skills needed to start and scale up businesses.

Over 60 women in the west have completed the programme in its first three years, and their businesses employ 146 people full time.

“Labour force participation rates for women in Ireland remain low by international standards despite rising wages and more career opportunities and this EMPOWER programme aims to help redress that imbalance,” Maria said.

CSO figures indicate that while the gender differential in the participation rates between men and women here is falling, it remains wide – 68.4% for men compared to 56% for women even though women make up over 50% of the population.

“The women I have worked with on this programme have shown tenacity and determination to get their business up and running. Whilst I have observed high levels of ambition some lack confidence and have low perceptions of capability.”

“Sometimes aversion to debt and a conservative approach to risk-taking can hamper ambition.”

“Often entrepreneurship is seen as providing more flexibility for women, however work-life balance still remains a challenge, particularly so during this COVID-19 lockdown.”

She added that there is often a ‘guilt’ factor in play when women focus on their business while having other responsibilities, and that policy makers should not overlook the challenges women face in maintaining a work-life balance.

“Women often choose self-employment for lifestyle reasons, particularly when the children are young, while men, to a larger extent, are driven by pecuniary motives”.

“We talk about implementing entrepreneurship in schools but what better way to learn about entrepreneurship than listening to and being involved with your parents on topics such as new ideas, ordering stock, money, etc.”

“This might be the bigger impact supporting women entrepreneurs has on the economy”, says Ms Staunton.

The EMPOWER programme is funded by the Irish Government and the European Social Fund as part of the Programme for Employability, Inclusion and Learning 2014-2020.