RECORD numbers of women applied to Enterprise Ireland (EI) for support last year as the group recorded a massive boost in employment at its client companies.
The agency said that an increase of 3,806 positions by its clients was the first significant job creation measure since 2006.
As recently as 2009, more than 19,000 jobs were lost in EI client firms.
Total employment in EI-supported companies stands at 300,000 people, 15pc of the total workforce in the Republic of Ireland.
Total direct employment in EI client companies is 174,473 people, of whom 146,908 are full-time and 25,656 are part-time.
More than 150 start-ups were supported in 2012.
And no doubt encouraged by the likes of successful female entrepreneurs from the past year such as Atlantic Bridge Technology Fund's Elaine Coughlan, designer Orla Keily, publisher Norah Casey and Giftsdirect.com's Lulu O'Sullivan, there were record numbers of applications from female entrepreneurs for feasibility and start-up funds.
The new Potential Exporters Division set up last year is engaging with 520 companies looking to export for the first time.
EI chief executive Frank Ryan said the companies assisted by the agency had proved "resilient and relentless in their pursuit of new market opportunities".
He said Enterprise Ireland was "now back talking to companies about expansion", something that hadn't occurred for several years.