Fianna Fáil yesterday launched an extensive policy document on promoting female entrepreneurship and supporting women in business.

The ‘Promoting Women Entrepreneurs’  document includes proposals to establish a National Office for Women in Enterprise, specific training programmes targeted at women entrepreneurs, equal maternity leave entitlements for self-employed workers, access to social welfare support for all entrepreneurs and an option for parents to share maternity leave entitlements.

The report’s author, Senator Mary White, said the aim is to remove the many barriers that currently exist for women who wish to set up their own business.

“We need a radical new approach to entrepreneurship in Ireland.  There are currently far too many risks associated with setting up a small business in this country.  This is particularly the case for women who face additional barriers when it comes to entrepreneurship,” explained Senator White.

“According to figures revealed in the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor report earlier this month, there are over twice as many men engaged in early stage entrepreneurship in Ireland as women.  Ireland is lagging behind the EU average when it comes to gender balance in entrepreneurship.

“It is clear that we need to take decisive steps to remove the obstacles to entrepreneurship in Ireland, particularly for women.  Our proposals include targeted education and training supports for female entrepreneurs, the establishment of a body tasked with incentivising female entrepreneurship and supporting women in business, the introduction of greater flexibility with maternity leave entitlements including a split maternity leave option, and the extension of social welfare entitlements for self-employed workers.

“The government accepted my proposed legislation on shared maternity leave in the Seanad, and I am now urging the government parties to consider these wider proposals carefully.  We have an opportunity to put party politics aside and take an important step towards supporting women who have the skills, imagination and drive to run their own business.”