Why Social Entrepreneurship is A Better Gig For Women Than The Corporate World

Women are natural social entrepreneurs.  However, research shows that women around the world are less likely to consider entrepreneurship as a career path, largely because they don’t see other women entrepreneurs as role models. The same issue holds true for women in the corporate arena — just 19 percent of top executives in Corporate America are women, according to a LeanIn.org and McKinsey report. In the report, McKinsey found that only one in ten senior positions go to women. Still, almost 50% of men think women are well represented in leadership positions across Corporate America and 33% of women agree with those men.

How can we create change when most people in the corporate world don’t see any need for it?

Perhaps women need another gig. And, since the playing field isn’t level for women in the corporate arena (on average, women are paid 71% of what men are paid for the same work), there’s no better group to usher in a new model of success than women.

Social Entrepreneurship: A New Model of Success 

Imagine the rules of capitalism and success have changed. The only way to achieve higher profits is by providing a social benefit to society.  This is the essence of social entrepreneurship. Social entrepreneurs are driven by both profit and social benefit. As a result, social entrepreneurs create business models that profit from the well being of others. This can take more innovation than what’s needed to be successful in the corporate world. In this way, innovation is the key to success in social entrepreneurship, not gender.

Social Enterprise Brings Increased Opportunities For Women

Opportunity is a powerful lure, especially for the marginalised. According to The Independent, “Women are almost twice as likely to reach the top ranks in social enterprises as they are in mainstream businesses”. Perhaps this is why creating a social enterprise can be challenging, but finding examples of women in social entrepreneurship is not. As former Chiliean President Michelle Bachelet put it  “women are natural social entrepreneurs”.

One organisation in Brazil called Voluntourism provides tourists with volunteer opportunities. Profits from the service are used to run a daycare for young mothers. In Chile, a cooperative of indigenous women makes products that foster cultural heritage. In Peru, an organisation trains domestic workers and then provides a placement service for those workers. In Croatia, an organisation called Roda designs and markets easy-to-use cloth diapers and accessories. The goal of the company is to impact change in maternal care.

Many women bring a corporate and charitable background to the world of  social enterprise. Joelle Adler, President and CEO of Diesel Canada  Inc. and Founder  of the ONEXONE Charitable Foundation helped form Industrial Revolution II (IRII). The company’s mission is to bring high-end manufacturing to Haiti.

Claire Dove is chief executive of Blackburne House – a social enterprise which runs  six businesses to fund career training  courses for women. “I have worked in the private sector, but for me, this was about finding a job that had some sort of  social impact. You can see tangible results when you spend a pound within our organisation”, said Dove to The Independent.

This is a common theme. Not only is there a great deal of opportunity in the field of social entrepreneurship, but it can be more rewarding than a job in the corporate world, a world where profits are the primary objective. One study provides compelling support for this theory. It found that “women as social entrepreneurs earn 29% less than their male colleagues, above the average UK gender pay gap of 19%”. As the study goes on to suggest, this difference is “hard to explain [as] discrimination since these CEOs set their own pay”. The only thing that can truly explain the difference is job satisfaction.

A New Gig With The Power To Change The World

Social science affirms that a woman’s place in society marks the level of civilisation – Elizabeth Cady Stanton

One of my favorite TV shows is Star Trek. Out of all the fascinating alien cultures presented on the show, I am especially interested in a humanoid species known as Ferengi.  Ferengi are characterised as ruthless and profit-driven. On their home-world of Ferenginar it is against the law for women to wear clothes or make a profit. Pregnancy is considered a ‘rental’ and it is the duty of every Ferengi mother to chew her family’s food before it is served.

Of course, this is only science fiction. We may not be able to say that humanity has been entirely progressive, but we haven’t devolved to the level of Ferengi (yet), and we owe much of this to the progress of women. The differences between men and women are nuanced and many, but we do have a great deal in common — namely our future.  If we’re being honest, women have confidence issues, but so do men. The cultural difference is that men tend to disclose a lack of confidence less and embrace risk more.

Today, with more access to knowledge than ever before, women are also finding more confidence and a higher tolerance for risk-taking in social entrepreneurship than the corporate world.  Perhaps this is because social entrepreneurship empowers women. It does so with increased opportunity for advancement and greater job satisfaction. Through social entrepreneurship women have the power to change our world.

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