Author: Dr. Joynicole Martinez, Director, Research & Development, World Woman Foundation
The long-term growth and economic success of societies is directly linked to the rate of entrepreneurship within its boundaries, with secondary effects influencing social growth and development. Social entrepreneurship and social enterprise are key contributors to the creation and diversification of entrepreneurial activity, economic growth, and the emancipation and empowerment of women.
Social enterprises are organizations with missions that balance revenue growth and profit-making with the core values of respecting and supporting its environment and stakeholder network and influencing culture. Philanthropic at their core, social enterprises are rising in response to the global political environment. Where governments are unable or unwilling to address the multiple layers of social ills that exist in communities social enterprises are filling the gap, triggering social growth while contributing to the economic stability of communities through purpose-centric and profit-maximizing business practices.
Social enterprise is playing a growing role in support of women’s empowerment – as a source of funding advocacy programs, a means of delivering training and creating employment, and as a way of empowering women socially and economically. The status of women in social entrepreneurship importantly disrupts the patterns of gender inequality. According to the British Council, there are approximately 210 million social entrepreneurs working to address social and environmental challenges. In the U.S., 31% of for-profit companies are led by women, but they are leading over 55% of social enterprises. Globally, social enterprise is changing the dichotomy between ‘the empowerer’ and ‘the empowered,’ giving women opportunity for and authority in decision-making. This requires a shift in how women are trained and elevated into leadership positions. Talent management experts, Development Dimensions International, found that while nearly 80% of women in senior roles had served as formal mentors, few of them had mentors of their own.
The networks of successful male and female leaders are different. Men benefit not so much from size of network but from being central in the network and connected to multiple “hubs.” Io achieve positions with the highest levels of authority and pay women require centrality in the network but also need an inner circle of close female contacts, even when their education and experience is similar to their male counterpart. The Harvard Business Review reported research that suggests women especially benefit from mentoring relationships: “Because women seeking positions of executive leadership often face cultural and political hurdles that men typically do not, they benefit from an inner circle of close female contacts that can share private information about things like an organization’s attitudes toward female leaders, which helps strengthen women’s job search, interviewing, and negotiation strategies.” This leads to gender balance and equity across social and professional lines.
Where gender balance in leadership is increased, there is a rise in productivity, innovation, and transparency. These corporate characteristics are important to American consumers. A Cone Communications study indicates half of Americans would prefer to work for a female-led company. The majority says women in leadership develop companies that are:
- more purpose driven (56%),
- more likely to include access to childcare (78%), and
- more likely to offer equal pay (75%).
As women recognize the link between social enterprise, transformation of self, and influence over community, they must identify their personal level of responsibility to shape and participate in philanthropy, social entrepreneurship, and mentorship. Traditional community-based interventions focus on women as beneficiaries, but mentorship empowers women as leaders, consumers, and contributors as innovators and agents of change.
Philanthropic dollars, then, must focus on driving authentic connection between women leaders and their rising counterparts. Mentorship is an investment in future talent, creating a pipeline from which prepared leaders can be selected, protecting succession and mitigating risk – critical to the health of the future philanthropic and purpose-centric industries and the societies they serve.