Social enterprise: the route to gender equality

A new report to be launched this week by the British Council has found that social enterprise has great potential for achieving UN Sustainable Development Goal 5: gender equality.

The report, Activist to entrepreneur: the role of social enterprise in supporting women’s empowerment, suggests that up to 12m more women could be social entrepreneurs across Brazil, India, Pakistan, the UK and the USA if they were given the right support and recognition.

To achieve this, the report recommends more support from government in providing childcare to enable women to work in this field and better education about social entrepreneurship.

It also urges social enterprise support organisations to encourage the building of female networks, targeted support packages and better promotion of female role models.

Social investors were also urged to ensure a gender balance, both on their investment committees and in the investments they make.

The British Council produced the report to provide clarity about the correlation between social enterprise and female empowerment and to provide clear recommendations to governments, funders and intermediaries on how to increase the impact of social enterprise in this area.

Globally, women are at greater risk of poverty, are less likely to be educated, less likely to run businesses and on average earn 75% less than men.

Six months of research and analysis drawn from focus groups and survey respondents in five countries examined outcomes from working in social enterprise that served to empower women.

These included developing skills and giving women a voice in their community, as well as providing jobs and education.

Paula Woodman, senior advisor in social enterprise at the British Council, commented: "All of our work in social enterprise and social investment is about trying to create a fairer economy.

"When we know that women, as more than half of the world’s population, are much more likely to experience an unfair economy, it is really essential that we understand how social enterprise is tackling this.

"Social enterprise is a powerful tool in creating that fairer economy for women but it is not yet fully utilised."

The report also noted a shift in power balance between the empowerer and the empowered.

A social enterprise approach differed from traditional grant funded or government programmes in that women moved from being beneficiaries to active stakeholders – allowing women to take their destiny into their own hands.

The Activist to entrepreneur: the role of social enterprise in supporting women’s empowerment report will be launched on Wednesday at European Development Days, the EU’s annual forum on international cooperation and development.

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