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Cultivating Women as Social Entrepreneurs

Cultivating Women as Social Entrepreneurs

Written by Staff Writer

August 16, 2021

By Beth Cook, CEO of Progression


Gender inequality and women’s empowerment challenges are age-old global issues that are more acute in developing countries like South Africa. And during Women’s Month in August, as South Africans honour women, it’s disheartening to learn that 65 years after the milestone women’s march to the Union Buildings in Pretoria, women’s issues persist.    


The Facts

Today, women work two-thirds of the world’s working hours and produce half of the world’s food but earn only 10% of the world’s income and own less than 1% of the world’s property. Further, according to Statistics SA, women earn on average 30% less than men; up 7% from 2015. The Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs indicated that women only account for 19.4% of business owners in SA. Also, as has been widely publicised, women have been hardest hit by unemployment caused by the Covid pandemic. 


Consequently, female entrepreneurship has become an essential opportunity for women’s empowerment.


Several studies show that most women work better as collaborators and teammates. Women tend to possess a more community-orientated mindset, making them ideal candidates for community organisations. What’s more, the role of women in community development is even more critical in effecting change, particularly in reducing inequality and promoting a fair society. 


One of the stereotypes that must be thrown out the window is that women don’t perform well as businesswomen. While statistics show that women are still marginalised in the corporate world at the higher levels of management, there’s been an emergence of standout female world leaders who are making a positive difference – dispelling stereotypical beliefs of strength and putting a spotlight on the community.


The Case for Social Entrepreneurship

Social entrepreneurship is defined as developing, funding, and implementing solutions to social, cultural, or environmental issues. It has been growing significantly in size, scope and support over recent years, correlating to an intensifying consciousness in society. 


“I have seen how individual women have been a shining light, leading the way, making a difference, breaking barriers and collaborating” – Beth Cook, CEO of Progression.


Female social entrepreneurs have an innate sense of community and empathy. They desire to make a positive difference, change the status quo and tackle the issues we’re facing as a country. Working at a grassroots level in their own communities, these women understand and work to address unemployment, lack of equal opportunities in the open labour market, and alleviate poverty. 


While social enterprises construct, evaluate, and pursue transformation and social change opportunities, much like non-profit organisations/charities, there’s a fundamental difference. Social enterprises tackle moral or social issues while seeking profits and contribute towards the economy. Profit is a necessary tool to make a difference, give back, grow, create jobs, address moral issues and even out the playing fields.


As public funding becomes scarce in a Covid-wounded economy, social entrepreneurship presents an innovative approach to demanding and complex social needs.


From an ideological perspective, shouldn’t society at large take responsibility for changing the inequalities in our country? In doing so, it changes the social health of our nation and its citizens. As citizens, we then share the responsibility with our politicians and corporate SA, enabling fundamental change. Increasing the role of women in community development can lead to more cooperative organisations that seek to improve life for all citizens.


Many strong South African women have an entrepreneurial spirit who want to make a difference. Given the right platform and tools, mentorship, support and financial wherewithal, these women can affect long-lasting and profound meaningful change while becoming successful in their own right.


In SA, the B-BBEE Scorecard affords opportunities to further encourage and nurture social entrepreneurship for women. There is a strong focus on women-owned business plus enterprise and supplier development. Supporting women in these endeavours in local communities bridges so many gaps and is far more sustainable in the long term. 


As a result of generational, gender-bias conditioning, many women have lacked faith in themselves and their abilities to get the assistance they need. In communities where the role of women has been traditionally marginalised, it is going to take strong, vocal, and persistent women to make these changes.



*Interested in more career tips and tricks? Check out the 16th edition of the Standard Bank Top Women Leaders publication on Issuu – Digital Publishing Platform – here.

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