Female entrepreneurs and business leaders meet today to discuss the challenges facing female-led start-ups - and the opportunities that exist in the market.

The event is part of the Dell Women's Entrepreneur Network tour - which is holding similar events in the likes of Lisbon, Stockholm and Tel Aviv. 

The focus of the Dublin event will be 'Women Funding Women'. The event's director Ingrid Devin says that funding has arisen as a major hurdle for those who have gotten their ideas off the ground.  

"There's always be challenges but I think there's a lot of growth around early stage entrepreneurial activity for women," she said. "The biggest challenge that we're seeing now is getting women to that growth stage and getting access to funding."

All start-ups will struggle to attract funding, however Ms Devin says the problem is particularly acute for those led by women. This may be partly due to the make-up of the investment industry, which is extremely male-heavy at present, she said. 

"The majority of VC funding goes to male entrepreneurs and there's a number of reasons why," she said. "One is that there's bias - both conscious and unconscious - but it is a major challenge for women. 

"A lot of the venture capital firms are led by men, so what we really need to see is a lot more female investors, because that's what's really going to make a difference," she added.


Ms Devin says that in countries where the gender balance of the investment sector is better, there follows a better chance of investment for female-led firms. Ireland, she says, is certainly not one of those ahead of the curve in this regard, though she notes that the situation has improved here in recent years.

Australia and Canada are some of the better examples she cites, where concerted efforts by state bodies have made a significant impact on the sector. 

Ms Devin has been director of Dell's Women's Entrepreneur Network for almost three years, before which she worked as the company's Diversity and Inclusion Lead. She says that a lot has changed in that time - including the levels of engagement amongst men in the industry.

"If you're going to change the culture where both men and women can be successful, you need both men and women to be engaged in that conversation," she says. "That is happening but it's a journey, and we've a long way to go."