Programme will be delivered fully online due to college closures and physical distancing
EMPOWER, the women’s entrepreneurship programme due to be delivered this month in the iHubs on GMIT, IT Sligo and Letterkenny IT campuses will now be delivered fully online from June, in line with the continuing physical distancing restrictions around Covid-19.
The programme has been running in the Galway and Mayo GMIT iHubs since 2017 and expanded to counties Sligo, Leitrim and Donegal in 2019 under the Connacht Ulster Alliance (CUA).
Funded by the Department of Justice and Equality and the European Social Fund, the application deadline has been extended to Friday, 29th of May 2020. All participants will need to have access to a device (PC or laptop) and have good broadband.
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: “The EMPOWER Programme is helping so many women build confidence, assess skills to implement ideas or scale businesses, and deliver market opportunities. Over 64 women in the West have completed the programme since 2017 and 146 people are currently employed by the businesses full-time and another seven part-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” explains Ms. Staunton.
“CSO figures indicate that while the gender differential in the participation rates between men and women here is falling, it remains wide – 68.4 per cent for men compared to 56 per cent for women even though women make up over 50 per cent of the population. Women’s participation in the economy is vital if we are to get the economy on track again especially after the Covid-19 pandemic. In Ireland, female-led businesses remain an underdeveloped source of economic growth and jobs.
“As part of a drive to increase the number of female entrepreneurs in Galway, Mayo and Roscommon, GMIT Innovation Hubs set out in 2017 to increase participation with the launch of EMPOWER, expanding to Sligo, Leitrim and Donegal in the past year. 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.
“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. The ‘guilt’ factor often comes into play amongst women as they spend time on their business whilst having other responsibilities. They face numerous challenges in terms of work-life balance something, which shouldn’t and cannot be overlooked by policy makers. 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.
“One interesting observation is that these women are paving the way for future entrepreneurs. I often remark that female founders teach their children (boys and girls) all about entrepreneurship as they often have to have the kids beside them when on telephone calls, or have to bring them to meetings. I know some who involve their kids in helping to pack orders. One person on the programme even brought her four-week old son along on some occasions as she was breastfeeding him. It’s important for us on the programme to ensure there are no barriers put in place. In the future the bigger impact – apart from job creation – may be the impression they leave on their children. 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”, adds 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. The Local Enterprise Offices are also very supportive of the programme locally.