The Oireachtas Joint Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation has published a female entrepreneurs report with regard to maternity issues among leadership in the tech sector calling for positive discrimination to increase numbers.
The female entrepreneurs report was authored by Senator Mary White and is arguably one of the largest calls for more to be done to narrow the gap with regard to the number of women entrepreneurs compared with men, particularly in the tech industry.
The report includes many recommendations that cover a variety of different approaches, but particularly when it comes to encouragement from an early age for young girls, as well as financial incentives for women beginning their entrepreneurial careers.
Among the key recommendations are, firstly, an overhaul of the existing maternity benefit scheme by extending the qualifying terms for maternity benefit to female entrepreneurs as currently exist for female employees.
This will see 39 weeks contributions, lowered from 52 weeks as well, as six weeks’ notice rather than 12 weeks.
Creation of female-led enterprise funds
In terms of creating positive discrimination measures, the committee recommends that a specific ‘female seed’ and ‘early-stage seed capital fund’ should be initiated by Enterprise Ireland, with management of this fund being predominantly by women.
Such funds invest between €100,000 and €600,000 in emerging companies so that a total fund of €25m could support about 50 new female-led companies over a five-year period.
Finally, the report suggests that a clear direction and plan should be put in place to inform parents, teachers and girls of the intrinsic value and career benefits of studying science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects.
“Despite the fact that increasing numbers of women are entering the fields of medicine and law, there remains a significant gender imbalance in the business and STEM industries,” Senator White said of the current situation women entrepreneurs find themselves in. “This needs to be countered by encouraging young women to enter these fields.”
“Our report shows that an unconscious bias still prevails, which designates business and STEM as being typically ‘male’ fields. Our report challenges that mindset, as it acknowledges the work being done by many women in these fields.”
Women Invent is Silicon Republic’s campaign to champion the role of women in science, technology, engineering and maths. It has been running since March 2013, and is kindly supported by Intel, Eircom, Fidelity Investments, ESB, Accenture and CoderDojo.
Female entrepreneur image via Shutterstock