Powering up female-led business

Every year, more people in Ireland start their own business or franchise. However, only 18 per cent of all established business entrepreneurs are female. Research suggests that women spend less time networking, but get better results when they do.

Ulster Bank has recognised these facts and launched Business Women Can (BWC) in October 2012. The Bank has been working to establish itself as the primary bank that supports female entrepreneurship and female business leaders in Ireland.

David Thomas, Managing Director of the Corporate Banking Division, is the executive sponsor of this initiative and says: "Women naturally support each other in their personal and professional lives, Business Women Can and Ulster Bank aim to harness that support in a formal way."

Business Women Can is a programme which reaches out to women in business, in both commercial and not-for-profit organisations. The Bank has appointed 17 internal ambassadors across Ireland to become champions of the initiative. These ambassadors have received bespoke and accredited training and, in turn, offer their insights to women in business through a collaboration of online and local support. Fiona Kingston, Programme Director for Business Women Can, says: "The programme is being very well received in our local communities by businesses and strategic partners alike."

Each one of the internal Ambassadors partner with an external Ambassador and together they offer relevant insight and support to women running and leading business in Ireland. The external Ambassadors have been identified though their partner and directly from the business community.

Ellvena Graham, Head of Ulster Bank, Northern Ireland, has been a great advocate for Business Women Can since its inception. Ellvena has in fact been rewarded on two occasions over the last month for the sterling work she has done and continues to do in the finance industry.

Ellvena took home the award for the First Woman in Finance category at The First Women Awards held in London. The award was set up by the Confederation of British Industry and recognises pioneering UK women who have opened up opportunities for others.

She also walked away with the Champion of Women award at the Women In Banking and Finance (WIBF) awards. Nominated by their peers, the award winners demonstrate both professional excellence as individuals and champion the employment, retention and progression of other talented women.

Ellvena is also very active in Ulster BankÕs internal network Women In Touch, which compliments the work carried out by Business Women Can to support female entrepreneurship and business initiatives across Ireland.