Top social enterprise women celebrated at WISE100 launch

The achievements of 100 leading women in social enterprise were celebrated last night at the launch of the WISE100.

The WISE100 (Women in Social Enterprise 100) WISE100 is the first ever index to recognise inspiring and influential women in social enterprise, impact investment and social innovation.

The new initiative has been created by the NatWest SE100 Index in partnership with Pioneers Post. At its launch event in London this week, the WISE100 brought together women from across the social enterprise and private sectors to discuss gender inequality in the workplace and the powerful potential that this new network of women has to encourage peer-to-peer support among women in social enterprise.

Baroness Glenys Thornton, CEO of the Young Foundation, is one of 100 women to feature on the WISE100 list of women who have made an outstanding contribution to social enterprise (see below for the full list). At the launch event, Thornton announced she was on a mission to bring the WISE100 initiative to parliament.

“I’m leaving the Young Foundation to go back into parliament and I intend to make the all-party group on social enterprise one of my priorities when I get back there. And I also intend to ensure we pick up this mantle of the WISE100 and women in social enterprise in parliament. That’s very important to me.”

In May of this year it was announced that Baroness Thornton would be stepping down from her role as the CEO of the Young Foundation because she had 'decided it is time for her to return to frontline politics'. Baroness Thornton has been a member of the House of Lords since 1998. 

When we challenge the inequalities that we face as women it opens up space to challenge other inequalities around sexuality, race, class...

The launch of the WISE100 comes at a time when gender inequality in the workplace is dominating the mainstream news. Every day this week new accusations regarding sexual harassment have been made against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.

Belinda Bell, programme director of social venture incubator Cambridge Social Ventures at the University of Cambridge Judge Business School and a member of the WISE100 selection panel, expressed her exasperation at the state of gender inequality. She said: “I definitely did not think this was where we’d be in 2017… and yet every single one of us women in the room knows that we have been judged, we have been touched and we have been commented on inappropriately in work settings.”

Reflecting on the high proportions of women in the social entrepreneur accelerator programmes she directs, Bell continued: “It doesn’t seem like rocket science to me – it is that we are not discriminating against women.

“The reason that it matters, apart from that it matters for women, is that when we build publicity for women in the way we are doing tonight, when we challenge the inequalities that we face as women, that also opens up space to challenge other inequalities around sexuality, race, class and all the rest.”

Write down your stories, claim your successes

The launch event of the WISE100 in itself demonstrated the importance of network initiatives of this kind. It brought together people working within a great variety of sectors and offered the opportunity for guests to talk openly with old friends and meet those who are only recently entering into the world of social enterprise. 

More than 250 women were nominated for the WISE100 and a panel selected the final 100. The 'Spotlight 10' were ten women selected from the 100 to be featured at the launch event. 

Karen Lynch, CEO of Belu, is one of the Spotlight 10. She reflected on her career: "In the world of banking and media, to ask for help was admitting you were not good enough. To ask for help, support and collaboration in the social enterprise world is to join together for the common good, delivered through doing business.

“Write down your stories, claim your successes and go out there and tell your stories and those of this wonderful network, the WISE100, that you are now part of."

June O'Sullivan, CEO of the London Early Years Foundation, Maggie O'Carroll, CEO of The Women's Organisation, and Sophi Tranchell, CEO of Divine Chocolate, are also among the social enterprise influencers to feature on the WISE100 list. 

The Spotlight 10

Susan Aktemel Director Homes for Good
Claire Dove Patron SEUK
Niamh Goggin Director Small Change
Pauline Graham CEO Social Firms Scotland
Karen Lynch CEO Belu Water
Caroline Mason Chief Executive Esmee Fairbairn Foundation
Maggie O'Carroll Chief Executive Officer The Women's Organisation
June O'Sullivan Chief Executive London Early Years Foundation
Glenys Thornton Chief Executive The Young Foundation
Sophi Tranchell Managing Director Divine Chocolate

The WISE100

Liz Allen Board Member Social Enterprise UK
Amy Anslow Founder-Director hiSbe
Ruth Anslow Founder-Director hiSbe
Belinda Bell Director Cambridge Social Ventures
Caroline Bennett Founder & Chief Executive Sole of Discretion
Emily Berwyn Managing Director Meanwhile Space
Suzanne Biegel Founder & Chief Catalyst Catalyst At Large
Adele Blakebrough CEO Social Business Trust
Hazel Blears Chair Social Investment Business
Cecile Blilious Co-Founder & Managing Partner Impact First Investments
Ruth Brock CEO Shakespeare Schools Foundation
Lisa Marie Brown Founder Pinkspiration CIC
Diane Burridge CEO Moneyline
Tracey Bush Chief Executive Officer Spiral Health CIC
Natalie Campbell Trustee UnLtd
Jennie Cashman-Wilson Founder Abram Wilson Foundation
Bonnie Chiu Founder Lensational
Sarah Crawley Co-Founder & CEO iSE
Cecilia Crossley Founder From Babies with Love
Jean Cumming Founder & CEO Crisis Ltd
Kelly Davies CEO Vi-Ability
Jane Davis Founder & Director The Reader Organisation
Sarah Deas CEO Co-operative Development Scotland
Meg Doherty Founder & Director Fat Macy's
Carole Donnelly Enterprise Network Manager Coventry University Social Enterprise
Ciara Eastell Chief Executive Libraries Unlimited
Francesca Findlater CEO Bounce Back Project
Lucy Findlay Managing Director Social Enterprise Mark CIC
Heidi Fisher Director Make an Impact CIC
Emma Flaherty Founder MoneyGirl
Esther Foreman CEO The Social Change Agency
Sarah Forster CEO The Good Economy Partnership
Alison Foster Area Manger GLL
Michele Giddens Founder & Partner Bridges Fund Management
Rosie Ginday Founder & CEO Miss Macaroon
Alex Goat CEO Livity
Lisa Greenhalgh CEO MSIF
Lindsey Hall Chief Executive Real Ideas Organisation CIC
Lucy Harding Chief Operating Officer & Co-Founder Dementia Adventure
Julie Hawker CEO Cosmic
Mursal Hedayat CEO & Founder Chatterbox
Jenni Inglis Director VIE
Lucy Inmonger Investment Manager LGT Impact Ventures UK
Lizzie Jordan Founder Think2Speak CIC
Ren Kapur Founder & CEO X-Forces CIC
Heledd Kendrick CEO Founder Recruit for Spouses
Chantal Khoueiry Founder Brides do Good
Lily Lapenna Founder & Chair MyBnk
Rachel Law Chief Executive PossAbilities CIC
Anna Laycock Executive Director Finance Innovation Lab
Elaine Lilley Chief Executive The EBP
Mairi Mackay Global Head Social Enterprise British Council
Marie Marin Chief Executive Employers For Childcare
Kate Markey Managing Director Blue Sky
Rose Marley CEO Sharp Futures
Jo McGrath CEO Enterprise Stuff
Karen McGregor CEO Firstport
Allison Mckay Managing Director Humatics CIC
Melanie Mills Social Sector Engagement Director Big Society Capital
Bernie Morgan Trustee RBS Community Loan Fund
Servane Mouazan Director Ogunte
Una Murphy Co-Founder / Director VIEWdigital
Roslyn O'Callaghan Founder Swaddle
Antonia Orr Chief Executive Coalition for Efficiency
Daniela Papi-Thornton Social Change Educator and Social Entrepreneur Skoll Centre for Social Entreprenurship
Geraldine Peacock OBE Ex-Chair Charity Commission
Megan Peat CEO RBS Social & Community Capital
Holly Piper Head CAF Venturesome
Sue Quinn Director Social Business Alliance CIC
Geetha Rabindrakumar Head of Engagement Big Society Capital
Jo Ransom Board Member Social Enterprise UK
Jessica Robinson Founder & Managing Director Moxie Future
Abbie Rumbold Partner and Head of Public Services & Mutuals and Health & Social Care Bates Wells Braithwaite
Sandra Schembri Chief Encouragement Officer The House of St Barnabas
Susie Simon-Norris Chief Executive Somerset Skills & Learning CIC
Emma Stewart Joint CEO Timewise
Kate Stewart CEO We Make Places
Sophie Unwin Founder The Edinburgh Remakery
Kim Wallace Networks and Development Manager SENSCOT
Zoe Wallace Head of Academy Agent Academy CIC
Sarah Wallbank CEO Yes Futures
Kate Welch Chief Executive Social Enterprise Acumen
Kresse Wesling Co-Founder / Director Elvis & Kresse
Rachel Whale Founder & CEO Koreo and Charityworks
Rebecca White Director Your Own Place CIC
Anna Whitty MBE CEO ECT
Paula Woodman Senior Social Enterprise Advisor British Council
Emma Worley Co-Chief Executive Officer The Philosophy Foundation
Sarah Wren Chief Executive Hertfordshire Independent Living Services
Michelle Wright CEO Cause4

For more information about the WISE100, click here.

Photo credit: Ollie Whittall