Scale Ireland Supporting Women in Start-ups: Network, Support, Break the bias

Ahead of the international women’s day, Scale Ireland had a great panel discussion on supporting Women in Start-ups. The discussion was very positive and touched upon a lot of key points that are required for supporting women in start-ups.

The event was supported by Meta, InterTradeIreland and Martinsen Mayer.

The event was hosted by Scale Ireland CEO Martina Fitzgerald and Rhona Togher, Co Founder & CEO , Lios Group.

At the start of the event, Martina shared a key statistic from Tech Ireland report: “105 million euros was raised by Irish female founders in 2020.” However just 16% of start-ups here have a female founder.

The panel members shared their stories, thoughts and suggestions which, if implemented, would make a real impact in increasing the number of women working in this sector.

The line up included Sandra Healy, Michelle McDaid, Mary McKenna, Reidin O’Connor, Aoife Ni Mhuiri and Heather Bruton. It represented a good mix of experienced and young entrepreneurs, women working in tech and women working to enhance the ecosystem.

The female founders initially shared their journeys, challenges, successes, etc.

Sandra Healy, CEO of Inclusio, a tech company which is a data driven, science based inclusion and diversity platform, spoke about how a data driven approach is helping to create an individual sense of belonging. She touched upon the importance of reaching out to people and building a network.

Michelle McDaid, Senior Director of Engineering, Workhuman, emphasised the importance of women in STEM. She pointed to some challenges which included women being underestimated and underpaid and on many occasions not having a ‘seat at the table’.

Mary McKenna, co-founder of the Awaken Hub, who is also a serial tech entrepreneur & angel investor, has been supporting women led start-ups. The Awaken Hub in Derry has helped to bring together specific communities to support women founders.

Reidin O’Connor, Head of Community, RDI Hub in Kerry mentioned the support that needs to be extended to girls in school to pursue STEM education. RDI hub is helping tech founders, who are struggling, to reach out to the right people and also to help them to learn how to access funding. She emphasised the importance of networking and referenced RDI’s ‘Founders Circle’ and ‘Matchmaking Tools’ that are helping founders.

Aoife Ni Mhuiri , founder of Salaso Health, spoke about Digital transformation and how it is key to success in business. Salaso Health has adapted a digital approach and has grown its business during the last two years.

Heather Bruton, the youngest panelist, is the founder of a campus wide platform called Unipeer. She is still a student at Trinity College. The platform brings together students with shared interests and experiences & supports people who feel lonely. It also creates a sense of belonging. She added there has been a positive reaction from students.

During the event, Sandra Healy also spoke about the pros of working in a Start-up. She added that it would be good for people to explore opportunities as it is rewarding, there is a lot of flexibility, and it is meaningful work.

Michelle highlighted that visibility is important. She said it would be good if people in senior positions noted : “who is not at the table, whose voice is not being heard” – this will help both men and women.

Mary stated that she had worked in two start-ups before starting her own. She added it is important to get experience in a start-up and said “Go & learn on somebody else’s money….”

Heather emphasised the importance of talking about starting a business at a young age. “Encourage girls at school, women at college.”

The importance of innovation was raised by Aoife. She spoke about the significance of being agile and having an innovative approach and always maintaining a focus on diversity.

Reidin said it was important to introduce girls to software languages like Python at an early age. She also mentioned the ‘Creative Circle’ and the high levels of female participation in it.

In relation to advice to women considering working in a start-up or setting up one, Sandra Healy said that it is never too early to build your network. “Culture is important” added Michelle. She also highlighted that ‘failure’ should be handled in a better way. There should be a healthier relationship with experiments. Mary said it is the duty of the founding CEO to set the voice and culture of the organisation when you interview and recruit.

“Getting involved in incubators & pitching helps you to learn” added Heather. Aoife said if you are passionate about something, it is important to focus on your business. Finally Reidin said it is about going through the dark days and bright days.

“You cannot be what you cannot see”

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