Women leading the charge in social enterprise

Social enterprise within the UK is on the rise. It is estimated that there are now 70,000 social enterprise organisations. And the trend is set to increase, with a glut of new social enterprises. One in three social enterprises is less than 3 years old, that’s triple the start-up rate of tradition SMEs.

Dig a little deeper and it’s not just the motivations of these businesses that differ from traditional organisations, but also the make-up of the leadership teams and business owners.

Social enterprises are far more likely to be led by women than mainstream businesses, 38% have a female leader compared to 19% of SMEs and a staggering 3% of FTSE 100 companies. Additionally 91% have at least one women on their leadership team. 49% of mainstream SME’s have all male directors.

This ‘break for the norm’ trend is also exacerbated by ethnic minorities. 15% of social enterprise leaders are from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities (BAME) and 28% of leadership teams include (BAME) directors compared to just 11% of traditional SMEs.

So why the disparity?  

It could be argued that social leaders and leadership teams are more closely linked to the communities that they serve. A proportion are launched with the mission of improving local projects and communities in the most deprived areas. Whether this means consciously employing people who are disadvantaged in the labour market, for example long-term unemployed, disabled or ex-offenders; or to reinvest a proportion of the company’s profits back into local initiatives, a greater representation at board level or an individual’s personal experiences can be included as reasons why social enterprises challenge the abiding social stereotype of business as the preserve of the older, white male.

The University of Greenwich has put some of those finding together in a useful infographic. They have also just launched a tailored MBA programme around social enterprise.



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