Startup Ireland - where no women need apply


There have been lots of articles written recently about the economic recovery in Ireland as well as articles about Ireland as one of the hottest entrepreneurial ecosystems in the world. Amongst all this positive press and feel good euphoria the Entrepreneurship Forum in Ireland released its first report, on January 23, 69 recommendations, over 60 pages (as Government reports go, this one isn’t terrible). The Entrepreneurship Forum was convened by the government as a call to action for citizens of Ireland to lay the foundations of a truly entrepreneurial economy. 

A fantastic endeavor, but will someone please, pretty please tell the Government PR people to include women in photo ops. I really do not understand why this is not done. Think about the message you send to the world and to aspiring young female entrepreneurs: ‘Ireland is a place where we are going to promote male-led companies,’ and ‘we only care about men’. Because of this oversight, this is the message that I took from last week’s announcement. You might feel this is an overreaction from one photo but to my mind you are either building an inclusive ecosystem or you are not. On this evidence, the grandly titled Entrepreneurship Forum has work to do.

Here are ten more reasons why it’s of logical, social and financial importance to include women in these reports. (Source: the magnificent Next Web, there are 23 other reasons why in this article. Check it out). 

- Women account for $7 trillion in consumer and business spending in the United States.

- In the next decade, women will control two thirds of consumer wealth.

- Women make or influence 85% of all purchasing decisions.

- Women purchase over 50% of traditional male products, including automobiles, home improvement products and consumer electronics.

- The average American woman is expected to earn more than the average American male by 2028.

- 51% of U.S. private wealth is controlled by women.- Women account for over 50% of all stock ownership in the U.S.

- Women control more than 60% of all personal wealth in the U.S.

- Women make 80% of healthcare decisions. 

- 75% of women identified themselves as the primary shoppers for their households.

Geddit yet? It’s a given that men are dumb most of the time but this is taking it to new depths.  

When you get past the offending photo there are lots of good news to shout about. The Irish are back on the road to recovery and leading the charge are our world class startups, creating two thirds of new jobs in the resurgent economy.  

I read the full report for the purposes of this article, the main parts and recommendations can be found on Slideshare. What entrepreneur has the time to wade through this, right? It’s a pretty tough read, full of pillars, and working groups. 

Some of the more interesting recommendations include using NAMA (Government owned distressed property agency) properties as co-work spaces is a brilliant idea. Changing the law on employee stock options, tax incentives for investing in companies, flat tax on income - these are all useful and super easy to implement. Anything that encourages investment and easier and cheaper ways for startups to reward people are great steps forward.  

There are no concrete decisions in this report, though. That’s what’s missing from this nice looking document. It would have made me so much happier if Richard Bruton, the Minister for Jobs announced that while there are 69 recommendations in the report, we are going to implement the top 20, or maybe the top five. Okay fine, just one big idea.

The reason for writing this post is not to criticize but to draw attention to a couple of improvements that could add to the ecosystem and brand Startup Ireland. There are loads of reasons why Ireland is a great place to start something. County Enterprise Boards and Enterprise Ireland provide a world class funding support system that is the envy of countries worldwide. I am consistently impressed with the quality of IDA (Irish Development Authority) people I meet. All in all, lots to be proud of in Startup Ireland.  

But why not include some of our successful diaspora in the conversation? I meet Irish Americans every week and they say the same thing: “We want to help but we don’t know where to start, we don’t just want to give money to worthy causes, we want to help the economy in meaningful ways.”