What did social enterprises do to enable women gain access to opportunities and resources?
Training and upskilling (to increase the prospect of employment)
Social enterprises provided various training opportunities for women to develop their competencies. As a social enterprise shared:
‘we tend to provide some kind of introduction to the sector and then also we provide opportunities to sort of learn about you know interview skills, communication. And sort of understand how to present yourself looking at your own values and you know, job search, social media. So they are mostly employability skills.’ (Social Enterprise 5).
Some social enterprises enhanced women’s employability skills such as improving their communication skills at interviews, performing job searches, and using social media to advertise their competencies and business skills. Some social enterprises trained the women to start their own businesses. It was also common for social enterprises to focus on well-being, resilience and confidence building, which encouraged the women to look for employment.
Employing the women
Social enterprises trained and provided women with employment, empowering them economically. Some social enterprises employed women directly once the women met a specific threshold and developed the required skills:
“So everybody we employ, we have trained, we have grown our own staff, if you like” (Social Enterprise 1).
Others focused on upskilling and matching women with various businesses in the industry that the social enterprises operate in (e.g. tourism):
“..it’s the industry that offers very few barriers to entry and therefore it’s ideal for people who are regaining their confidence to enter the job market. It’s also an industry that provides a fabulous progression opportunity” (Social Enterprise 5).
Expanding networks (local and national)
Social enterprises provided various networking opportunities for women beneficiaries. This includes attendance at events, online networking sessions, meetings between women beneficiaries and the creation of local groups. Networking links women to other forms of support, which is important, given that social enterprises often have limited resources. As one SE shared:
‘they will be part of a network of other women like themselves that live in that community, that feel that way about that community.‘ (Social Enterprise 2)
Enhancing women’s leadership opportunities (work alongside the leaders)
Working alongside female leaders was reported as one of the key practices of social enterprises we interviewed. Women beneficiaries met the female leaders, who inspired them by sharing their own challenges and powerful stories of how they overcame them.
“What that was about talking to the women in the audience and saying, look these women have overcome huge things, you know being a single parent, surviving domestic abuse – you can overcome these obstacles. You can overcome these challenges and that’s what I wanted to show that ordinary women are making these choices. It’s all about mindset.” (Social Enterprise 2).
Referral to other organisations
Social enterprises have connections to other organisations, such as community support groups, local groups, and family services. These organisations can provide support to their women beneficiaries.
‘It was great to see when COVID did strike and I thought to myself, at least we know that those people that we’d actually have been able to refer had received the help and support that they needed.’ (Social Enterprise 1).
As the social enterprises explained, being able to refer women beneficiaries to other organisations is key to ensuring that the women receive the required support that may come from the outside of the social enterprise.
Social enterprises provided opportunities for women to gain accreditations and certifications. This was useful for them to improve their profiles and CVs for future job opportunities. As a social enterprise shared:
“…we would give them training opportunities so they would be more knowledgeable, so for example, if they are volunteering to cook for the day centre we would give the health and safety, the food certification. So, they will do that training and then that training can be put in their pockets and used in other places. So we give them opportunities so they can advance themselves” (Social Enterprise 6)
Latest posts by granadm (see all)
- Part 5: Potential challenges in empowering women - 6 September 2022
- Part 4: How to measure the impact of Gender empowerment practices - 6 September 2022
- Part 3: Practices to empower women in social enterprises - 6 September 2022