The great Nora Efron once said: “Be the heroine of your life – not the victim”. Historically speaking, women’s role in society has been greatly undermined; for centuries they were merely considered as a function in the household: a wife and a mother. It’s been a while since women were dreaming of having the lives of one of Jane Austen’s characters – instead, extraordinary women are leading the way fearlessly and fiercely, making great progress in all fields of life.

To drive social change, one has to take the wheel in both hands and start moving forward. What motivates so many women around the world to do so – and how do they combine the social causes with the corporate world?

Women Entrepreneurship from a Bird’s-Eye View

Where in the traditional commercial entrepreneurship world, we can still see a 2:1 ratio between the genders (in the U.S.) – in social entrepreneurship the numbers are much more promising: 55% are male and 45% are female.

But why do so many women seem to choose social entrepreneurship over the “traditional” type of business? Women are usually more concerned with social goals than men, and tend to have a personal connection to the goal or task at hand – making them all the more committed to the enterprise’s success, and therefore not necessarily interested to gain any personal profit off of it.

An OECD paper found that women are also much more innovative, both in the solutions their enterprise offers, and in their management style: researcher Marieke Huysentruyt noted that 62% of women-led social ventures were the first to provide a product or a service for and/or in the community the enterprise was established in (and sometimes even first in the world). Furthermore, women social entrepreneurs were more likely to empower their co-workers, enabling them to “learn and develop important talents and skills”.

The gender gap in social entrepreneurship seems to also be narrowing down with the years and new generations: whereas only 18% of social enterprise directors are 55 and older, 35% are aged between 35 to 44. Women social entrepreneurs are not only younger than men, but also have less business experience and less knowledge of the sector in which they operate – a testimony to their spirit and determination.

Another interesting statistic has to do with the sectors in which women tend to focus on and act: 26% of women-led social enterprises in Europe are human health and social work activities related; The second highest percentage (19%) was in education, then in accommodation and food services (9%) and information and communications (9%).

Being Change-Agents In Their Society

By becoming a social entrepreneur, many women are not only defying existing gender norms, but also reshape those norms and emancipate themselves. Challenging the status quo is never an easy task, but it’s especially interesting in cultures and regions of the world where women are still experiencing traditional societal expectations.

Here are some of those exceptional stories:

Workplace diversity, women and minorities inclusion – Lisa Skeete Tatum and Sheila Marcelo, Landit

In the ever-changing reality, finding a job after a career-change is becoming harder and harder in general, but for women and minorities, despite the progress made, the task is still even more challenging. Many high-potential candidates either keep or find themselves out of the race.

Aiming to help both individuals, carving their professional way, and organizations, looking to diversify their teams – Landit was founded in 2014 to increase the success and engagement of women and minorities in the workplace.

By creating a personalized “playbook” for the entire process, Landit was previously called the “new LinkedIn for women”, and has already raised a total of $18.9. With an estimated target audience of more than 40 million people, the frequently asked question: “where do I start?” may as well be eradicated from their lexicons.

Financial Independence – Ana Fontes, RME

In patriarchal cultures, the significance of learning about financials and financial independence is much greater. That’s why Brazilian social entrepreneur Ana Fontes took matters into her own hands, and since the beginning of the global pandemic, equipped 750,000 women with the knowledge and tools to navigate the fast-moving digital landscape.

Her Women Entrepreneurs Social Network (or in its Portuguese acronym, RME) is the first and largest support network for female entrepreneurs in Brazil. With US$ 7.3 million raised during the Coronavirus crisis, and the aim to raise another US$ 18.4 million, Fontes plans to reach no less than 2 million women in her country this year, as well as provide business-mentoring and seed capital to other women entrepreneurs.

Climate Change – Abhilasha Purwar, Blue Sky Analytics

As an “energy-thirsty country”, India has been trying to make a change in its climate policies. A report by the IPCC found that due to global warming, the country has been hit by at least one extreme weather event on a monthly basis over the past two years – a warning sign to act, and quickly.

Alongside governmental initiatives, social entrepreneurship is taking a stand and works towards change: in July 2018, Abhilasha Purwar founded “Blue Sky Analytics” –  an AI-based startup that provides real-time environmental data about climate change, and offers insights and actions regarding air and water quality. The startup’s app, BreeZo, has every intention of becoming the Bloomberg of environment-related data.

The risks that women tend to take in social entrepreneurship and their adaptability to change are some of their greatest assets. In the following episode, we will dive further into COVID-19’s effects on women globally, including in the social entrepreneurship world – and the opportunities that grew from the problems.