The Roots of Ambition

The non news of last week for me was the revelation that “less than 3 per cent” of VC money went into female founder companies in Ireland in 2015. No, I didn’t know that was the figure, but professionals here and in almost every startup hub from Asia to America would have guessed it was abysmally low, and hit the nail hard on the head.

Current levels of funding are completely unacceptable, but female entrepreneurs, please take heart and ignore the scary headlines. We are not “at risk of becoming a men’s only club”. Au contraire, change is afoot and there is room for you, your great product, and big ambitions. Especially if you’re bloody minded enough to insist upon it.

Relatively speaking, there’s never been a better time for women (or men) to do a startup in Ireland. Tech is inexpensive, there are loads of supports available, including early stage funding, and failure is gaining respect as a legitimate, and even valuable, result for your efforts.

Startups fail for many reasons. Gender is just one of a myriad and if you’re brave, smart and persistent it probably won’t be the reason you fail.

VC funding makes most sense for businesses scaling globally. To see more VC in female founder companies, we also need more women with big ambitions, more successful female role models. Thankfully, I see these women every day in our startup community: Rhona Togher, Ciara Clancy, Liz Fulham, Patricia Scanlon, Leonora O’ Brien, Nora Khaldi, Jayne Royane and many others. The role model competition in Ireland is heating up!

The women in business news that did surprise me last week was Obama’s new proposal around equal pay audits for companies with over 100 employees. We’ve long ago regulated for equal pay in Ireland of course, but women still earn around 35% less per annum here than men in the same roleĀ  - and the gap widens as their careers develop.

We talk about increasing women’s level of ambition and confidence as entrepreneurs and how things like education and role models can help. Offering women an innate and proven business culture of equal pay would be another monumental step forward.

Niamh Bushnell

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