The Editor’s Post: Why we still need networks for women, in the impact sector and beyond

This week in the Pioneers Post newsroom, we reflect on the importance of cultivating networks for women, share secrets of investment success from South Africa and look at how businesses can achieve racial equity through social innovation.

The UK is famous for its ‘old boys’ network’, a behind-the-scenes brotherhood of men who spent their childhoods at the most expensive and prestigious schools, then were selected for the most elite universities and who, in adulthood, gather to socialise in exclusive venues. They’re the backbone of the country’s ruling class: they’re royalty, government ministers, lawyers, artists and academics.

Left-leaning newspaper The Guardian recently exposed the membership list of the Garrick Club, a men-only London institution where members meet to drink wine, dine and chat. The list of members, which include King Charles, the head of the secret intelligence service and the deputy prime minister, prompted anger about how many influential figures belong to a club that bars women. Labour MP Harriet Harman said: “These clubs prop up structures that restrict women’s access to power.”

This is why, at Pioneers Post, we believe that it’s important to help women to connect across the impact sector. Our WISE100 initiative does just this, and in the latest webinar in our ‘WISE100 Lunchtime Takeaways’ series, we explored the theme of ‘how to boss it as a woman in social enterprise’. We drew upon the experience of two of this year’s WISE100 award winners, Zareen Roohi Ahmed and Sarah Hopley, alongside Victoria Papworth, CEO of NatWest Social & Community Capital, which supports the WISE100. 

Our speakers emphasised – as the UK’s old boys’ know only too well – the importance of networking. Sarah advised other women to “surround yourself with great women that will champion you, and don’t be afraid to ask them for help”. The speakers also reflected on how mentoring can make a difference to younger women. 

Most importantly, though, it was a refreshingly honest and open conversation. Zareen spoke about how she honoured the memory of her daughter after she was murdered by starting a social enterprise, Gift Wellness, which provides menstrual products around the world. She said a social entrepreneur’s vision had to be unwavering to get them through the tough times.

The discussion in the webinar’s chat box was lively, with our audience making the most of the networking opportunity. And best of all, the attendees told us that they enjoyed the conversation. “An insightful and inspiring discussion”, said one. Another said it was the most enjoyable lunch break she’d had in a very long time.

If you missed the webinar, you can catch up with it on our website. (And don’t worry, we’re very happy to welcome men into the conversation too!)


SE100 is open now

Hot on the heels of our WISE100 awards, our annual SE100 is now open. We’re looking for this year’s pioneers in diversity, climate action, social investment and leadership among the UK’s most impressive social businesses. Apply here by 5 May.

This week's top stories

Social Enterprise Mark closes due to ‘difficult operating environment’

South Africa’s SAB Foundation: Why 97% of its investees are still in business five years later

‘Not just a moral imperative’: Schwab Foundation and Echoing Green call on businesses to team up with social innovators to drive equity

'Be prolific, not perfect': WISE100 2024 winners share their lessons on leadership


Header photo: older men drinking together, courtesy of Freepik