Social Entrepreneurship Provides Beacon of Hope for Women Worldwide


Celebrating International Women’s Day earlier this month reminded me of a blog that I wrote almost exactly two years ago today. Now that we’re (mostly) on the other side of the pandemic, it seems like an apt time to think about what’s changed for women in these two years and what hasn’t.

Last summer, the World Economic Forum published its Global Gender Gap Report 2022, which benchmarks 146 countries in a robust analysis of women’s workforce outcomes. As Managing Director Saadia Zahidi summarizes, “In 2022, amid multi-layered and compounding crises including the rising cost of living, the ongoing pandemic, the climate emergency and large-scale conflict and displacement, the progress towards gender parity is stalling.”

Based on current data, the report predicts that closing the global gender parity gap will take another 132 years as compared with pre-pandemic estimates of less than 100 years. That difference represents an entire generation of women.

Yet social entrepreneurship continues to shine a beacon of hope for women around the world. A separate article by the World Economic Forum states that “The social entrepreneurship sector has proven itself uniquely capable of empowering women leaders in its field, and of changing the lives and welfare of all women.”

I truly believe this! There’s remarkable power in the social enterprise movement to disrupt the status quo and contribute to the economic empowerment of women around the world.

Here’s my original blog, published in our March 23, 2021 newsletter with links to a series of articles I wrote for Times of Entrepreneurship about how social entrepreneurs are creating models for success for women in the communities they serve.


As the month of International Women’s Day on the 8th and Women’s History Month in the US, March is a time to recognize and celebrate the accomplishments, strength, and resilience of women. It is an opportunity to honor the women who are our heroes, mentors, and role models, both the famous and the personal. For me, some of those notable women include the “notorious” Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Rosa Parks, and my mom, Val Ellis.

But while we commemorate how far we’ve come, it’s impossible to ignore how far we still have to go. Data compiled by UN Women shows that women are paid less than men globally, are more likely to be unemployed, and are disproportionately responsible for unpaid work, spending approximately “2.5 times more time on unpaid care and domestic work than men.” And we’re witnessing how COVID is only widening these gaps. A January article in Fortune dropped this bombshell: “Women accounted for 100% of the 140,000 jobs shed by the U.S. economy in December”, with the pandemic largely to blame.

Even though the social enterprise movement is at the forefront of innovation and sustainable change on so many levels, women entrepreneurs still must overcome far greater hurdles for recognition and investment compared to their male counterparts. My February Op-Ed in Times of Entrepreneurship: The Real Reason Women Entrepreneurs Struggle to Raise Funding highlights that women-led enterprises are drastically underfunded despite the fact that their businesses, on average, significantly outperform those founded by men. A Santa Clara University study led by Professor Maya Ackerman and cited in Forbes found that gender is the primary determining factor in funding, with women “65% less likely to get funded at early stages…and 35% less likely to be funded at later stages.”

Yet social entrepreneurship still offers some of the most compelling hope for women’s economic empowerment — as founders and leaders, customers, employees, and value chain contributors. Two additional Op-Eds published in Times of Entrepreneurship, Good Jobs For Women Are In Reach Through Social Enterprises and These 10 Social Enterprises Help Women Navigate The Grey Economy, focus on the ways social enterprises are providing both formal and semi-formal work opportunities for women. And my final Op-Ed in the series, Companies Can Learn to Tap the World’s Biggest Market highlights how social enterprises are at the forefront in recognizing the global consumer market of women.

We know that raising women’s economic status works! According to a Boston Consulting Group analysis, if women and men participated equally as entrepreneurs, global GDP would rise by approximately 3% to 6%, adding $2.5 trillion to $5 trillion to the global economy. And as women earn money, they are significantly more likely to invest in their children’s education and their communities than men.

Miller Center is working tirelessly to be part of the solution in changing the narrative for women, especially those living in poverty. One way we’re doing this is through our recently launched Women’s Economic Empowerment Accelerator for enterprises taking a robust and holistic approach to elevating women in all aspects of their businesses.

Our mission is to accelerate social entrepreneurship to eliminate global poverty for the next generation. To deliver on this ambitious goal, the evidence is clear — we must move the needle on women’s economic empowerment.


Photo Credits:

  1. Polly & Other Stories
  2. Gravity Water
  3. Tierra & Lava