“Breaking the glass ceiling by starting our own enterprises"

The annual Global Entrepreneurship Monitor report found last summer, that men and women are close to equally represented in social ventures, with 45% of the world’s social entrepreneurs being female.

Sadly, the same cannot be said for mainstream business in America. The US ranks 45th in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report, falling 17 spots from last year. We are behind Burundi, Namibia, South Africa and Mozambique and all major European countries.

For a country that prides itself on its progressive values, we are sorely lacking when it comes to women in positions of power. Women may be the majority of college graduates but less than 20% rise above middle management and only 4% have become CEOs of Fortune 500 companies.

45% of the world’s social entrepreneurs are female, unlike mainstream business

Diversity adds profit
The lack of gender diversity isn’t just wrong, it’s economically foolish. A frequently-cited 2015 report by McKinsey & Co. found that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15% more likely to have financial returns above their national industry medians. Diversity consultancy Catalyst, found that Fortune 500 companies with at least three female directors have 42% higher return on sales and 53% higher return on equity.

As a way to circumvent the glass ceiling, many of us are leaving our jobs to start our own businesses, a number of them in the social impact space. I count myself among them. In the summer of 2016, I launched Ladies Get Paid, an organization dedicated to helping women rise up. We host town halls and workshops with the goal of getting women to advocate for themselves at work and through civic engagement. In less than six months, over 800 women have attended our town halls and we now have 3,000 members from 45 states and 40 countries.

In creating Ladies Get Paid, I have become a social entrepreneur, joining the trend of many other women who are also entering the field. Professor Siri Terjesen, author of GEM’s Social Entrepreneurship Report, notes that many social enterprises worldwide are run by women. “In social ventures, both genders are equally represented, suggesting that social entrepreneurship is a top business field of interest for women worldwide.”

While organizations like Girl Tank and SheWorx are affecting change in the social impact space, currently, the best countries to be a female social entrepreneur are the Philippines, Russia, Norway, Malaysia and our northerly neighbor, Canada.

The Phillipines and Norway are top places to be a female social entrepreneur

Millennial business
One reason we’re seeing more female social entrepreneurs is that women in general, are starting businesses at a rapid speed. Black female entrepreneurs, for example, are the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs in the US, generating over $44 billion a year in revenue. The fact that social entrepreneurism is a relatively novel concept – and one embraced by millennials – may attribute to a new way of thinking when it comes to leadership. The millennial mindset of wanting flexibility and the desire to do meaningful work encourages me to believe that the social impact space will be a better environment for women and see them become leaders.

Another factor might be is the growing number of women-run venture capital firms and all-female investor networks, many of them focused on social impact. Half of wealthy women in a recent survey expressed an interest in social and environmental investing while only one third of wealthy men did. 65% of women thought social, political and environmental impacts were important, as compared to just 52% of men.

There are few - if any - industries that can boast gender parity in leadership. The wage gap is real. Compared to men, white women lose over half a million dollars over the course of their careers while women of color lose $1 million dollars. It can often feel overwhelming to try to create change. But the groundswell of support I’ve seen just through my own social venture, makes it clear how powerful we can be when we come together. As each of us makes progress, we are all one step closer to the top. Suffice to say: we are rising up.

Claire Wasserman is Amaphiko’s new Deputy Editor and founder of Ladies Get Paid.

Image by Leta Sobierajski

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