Globally, Women and men face barriers when starting and running social enterprises however, women social entrepreneurs encounter some additional barriers including greater demands on time due to home and family commitments, less confidence in skills and ability, greater fear of failure, fewer female role models, varying social and cultural pressures on women, prejudice and discrimination & abuse than men. They are more likely to be malnourished and less likely to be educated. They are less likely to run businesses or be in positions of leadership; and on average they earn 75 per cent less than men.
The Social entrepreneurship sector has played a small but significant role in women’s empowerment on a global scale. Capital Solutions designed a six-months Women Social Business Accelerator Programme to address this challenge hence contributing towards the UN’s Sustainable Goal (SDG) 5 ‘to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.’ There is need for concerted efforts to ensure this goal is achieved by 2030 and no woman will be left behind.
Social entrepreneurship is the process of recognizing and resourcefully pursuing opportunities to create social value. Social entrepreneurs are innovative, resourceful, and results oriented individuals who draw upon the best thinking in both the business and nonprofit worlds to develop strategies that maximize their social impact.
Gender equality should be at the heart of sustainable development. Social Entrepreneurship should advance conditions for women, aiming at a more equal and inclusive world because the more women economically engaged, the more economies and societies will prosper.
Besides the role conventional entrepreneurship plays in shaping women’s employability, there has also been in recent years increased interest in social entrepreneurship as a means of addressing some of society’s most entrenched social problems. However, little attention has so far been paid to how social enterprises are actually performing on gender issues, there is need to apply ‘gender lenses to social businesses to facilitate women’s economic empowerment and make markets more inclusive.
As pointed out by World Bank “Investing in women is smart economics” (2006): introducing gender-integration strategies in social business is not only the ‘right’ thing to do, but it is also economically sound. Social businesses are only able to scale if they stop gender discrimination and stereotypes. Women-led social enterprises can even generate more revenue than their male-led counterparts.
Invest in Women leaders
Most women social entrepreneurs are not primarily driven to social entrepreneurship to earn an income, their key motivation in setting up a social enterprise is to address a social or environmental concern, or to benefit their community. However, In Africa, particularly East Africa, Fewer women than men set up social enterprises, women social entrepreneurs are likely to earn less than their male counterparts and their for-profit counterparts, and are unlikely to move into the for-profit sector. This restricts women’s economic empowerment. It also restricts the spread of social enterprise values into the wider business environment. The lack of visibility for women in leadership roles and of their deeply impactful initiatives contributes to a culture where young girls are not encouraged to develop entrepreneurial skills or pursue leadership positions in social entrepreneurship or otherwise.
Women are significantly underrepresented at the senior management and board level, which slows progress in broader efforts to integrate gender. These gaps often reflect a limited pipeline of women in entry- and mid-level roles
Therefore, it is important to integrate women into senior management positions and invest in long term leadership development. This will help Social enterprises to gain better insights into the preferences of female customers which will in turn translate to greater business success.
It will take time to address these gaps as companies invest in hiring, training and leadership development but Proper business support and funding for these women could enable some of them to develop formal social enterprises and potentially earn an income from their work hence supporting other women and young people around them, and empowering their own teams.