Donegal Women in Business Network (DWBN)
Over two hundred delegates attended the DWBN conference held recently in the luxurious surrounds of Lough Eske Castle in celebration of twenty years of the Network. Our event was deemed to be an overwhelming success. It was truly remarkable to feel the energy in the room, the sense of empowerment and the openness with which people shared their stories and experiences. Big thanks to Donegal Local Enterprise Office, our sponsors and the main organisers of the conference, DWBN committee members, Evelyn Mc Glynn and Trish Mc Ginley, who worked tirelessly for months to prepare for the event and book launch which celebrated the success of business women in Donegal, past, present and future.
Why are there so many business networks exclusively for women?
Fair question! There are a number reasons why these supports are needed. GEM* data from recent years shows that there are more male than female entrepreneurs and that more male than female entrepreneurs have growth expectations. For example, for every female entrepreneur with growth expectations in the three years from 2016 to 2018, there were 3.5 male entrepreneurs with growth expectations. This compares to a ratio of 1 to 5 in previous years. While the gap is narrowing, scope remains for improvement and gender-specific programmes provide an important platform for women to be given support to excel in business.
Benefits of women’s styles of networking include making valuable long-term business contacts, listening to and hearing advice from peers and experts, sharing knowledge and experiences, all with an emphasis on making connections and collaborations. It is widely accepted that women network differently to men. Women generally are more open, less competitive and more co-operative and collaborative in their approach to networking. The golf course or club has been replaced by cosier spaces that offer a somewhat inviting and intimate environment in which to share and learn. It can be said that there’s a huge openness within female-only groups that sometimes you don’t get within mixed groups. The key difference is that women’s networks are less about selling and more about sharing. Being part of a network can boost confidence and assist in overcoming barriers that may specifically affect women in business.
The time is rapidly approaching for the conversation on supporting women in business which is not centred on the isolation of women from men but more on the growth of women with the aim of changing the status quo in terms of gender diversity. Thus, instead of looking at business as a place to compete with each other, we need to use our collaborative instincts to work together to empower women in the workplace, in business and in the overall economy. This will, needless to say take time and effort on all sides. Rosy Temple from the world famous Magee 1866 had wise words for all delegates at our Donegal Women in Business Network Conference when she highlighted that in business, while gender balance and gender diversity are increasingly important, what really matters is what an individual can bring to the table in terms of their respective skills and suitability.
Let’s Celebrate Sisterhood
There is a long way to go before the business world is gender equal, and until then there will be a need for female-only networks that can support and encourage women to succeed in business. In the meantime, we should celebrate the recent surge in female entrepreneurship in Ireland, which in turn is making a positive contribution to the economy and is inspiring future generations of Irish women to follow their entrepreneurial dreams.
*GEM – Global Entrepreneurship Monitor