Women founders still in minority across Ireland’s rising tech sectors

18 Jan 2018

Image: Foxy Burrow/Shutterstock

New research from TechIreland confirms a dearth of women founders in the tech industry.

Irish women founders are still in the minority across core tech sectors in Ireland, new research from TechIreland has revealed.

The data is part of baseline research on tech sectors in Ireland produced by TechIreland, which has been building an Irish database that can be searched company by company, sector by sector and investor by investor.

The new data shows that across sectors such as AI, blockchain, fintech and agritech, as well as traditional fields such as health, edtech, telecom tech and security, the industry is buzzing in terms of funding and activity.

However, a glaring factor that the research surfaces is the reality that women founders are still in the minority, even in the shiny new sectors.

  • AI: 77 companies, 17 women founders
  • AR/VR: 17 companies, four women founders
  • Blockchain: 12 companies, two women founders
  • IoT: 116 companies, 16 women founders
  • Agritech/food: 58 tech companies, 21 women founders
  • Entertainment and sports: 165 companies, 25 women founders
  • Edtech: 67 tech companies, 16 women founders
  • Fintech: 160 companies, 16 women founders
  • Green/energy IT: 78 companies, four women founders
  • Health/medical-focused IT: 251 companies, 53 women founders
  • IT security: 57 companies, five women founders
  • Telecom tech: 74 companies, seven women founders

The findings come on the heels of research last week that showed Irish start-ups with women founders secured just €79.4m worth of investment out of a total of €580.2m raised in 2017, or just under 14pc of the total amount.

Can focused strategy level the playing field?

Women founders still in minority across all of Ireland’s rising tech sectors

TechIreland CEO Niamh Bushnell. Image: Connor McKenna

Responding to these observations, TechIreland CEO Niamh Bushnell said that while on the surface women founders are still in the minority, compared with the international picture, Ireland is actually leading the field and raising the bar for women founders.

“I am not arguing that these are great figures by any stretch but, relatively speaking, we are very strong when it comes to female founders. We are starting from a low bar but, globally and proportionately, we outperform international counterparts.”

Bushnell said a key factor has been the strong leadership shown by Enterprise Ireland in creating strategic initiatives to support women founders and entrepreneurs.

This was outlined at Inspirefest last year. Out of 128 start-ups that joined Enterprise Ireland’s programmes last year, 63 were women-led businesses, said Dr Carol Gibbons, director of ICT programmes at the State agency, to the audience at Inspirefest 2017. This is up from 43 women-led start-ups in 2014, and an increase on the overall total of 104 companies that same year.

Bushnell said that people are recognising a new generation of women founders, and these women are “making sure they are recognised as founders and are going out there and getting funded. What is impressive is the solid numbers of women founders in companies that are five-plus years old.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years