Gender and our business advice
Gender inequality is a big issue for mainstream business - the gender equality pay gap will take 60 years to close, women remain under-represented on company boards and gender-based workplace discrimination costs the UK economy £123 billion a year. So how can we play our part in ensuring the social enterprise business advice we provide is part of the solution, not the problem?
We recently took part in a Social Enterprise UK workshop on social enterprise and gender empowerment. This session - organized in partnership with the University of Westminster - gave tips on how to analyse your work to help achieve gender equality and empowerment.
During the workshop we were asked about our social impact. In our ten-year impact report we demonstrated how we have achieved a number of outputs and outcomes. But we realised that we hadn’t clearly stated anything relating to the gender of any of our beneficiaries. Of the 600 people directly advised - how many were women? Of the 300 social enterprises started up - how many were led by women? Of the 1,500 people attending workshops and training - what percentage were woman? Furthermore, did women access different services, want distinct things and did they have statistically significant differences in success rates compared to men?
We knew we did have some data behind some of these questions but also thinking about this has led us to implement some new ideas around our advice and feedback mechanisms – more on that later.
Currently our data on gender is not systematically and consistently collected – it differs according to the requirements of different funders or commissioners. This makes it nearly impossible to aggregate across programmes. Also, in some cases partners are unable to pass the information on leading to gaps in our analysis.
We looked at what we did have. We analysed 224 business records from two commissioned business advice programmes we ran over the last few years. We found that around 60% of the support for social entrepreneurs we provide is accessed by women. This pretty much matches data from SEUK on the proportion of staff in the UK and in South West social enterprises who are female, and from evaluations of other social enterprise business advice programmes.
We found that, in our data, there were no statistically significant differences in the type of support received for men and women. We would like to collect more data on this. We think that with a larger sample size it may be possible to determine whether more women than men access support to become enterprise ready or not. Also, with a larger, aggregated data set we may be able to assess whether women require different business support to men and be able to see if women achieve their social enterprise business goals as effectively as men.
We know that this data is hugely important and will enable us to provide a better service; hopefully leading to a more appropriate service for women – thus contributing to gender equality and empowerment. In line with our commitment, it is perhaps worth noting that despite extensively collecting gender - and other demographic - information, no programme funder has ever given us feedback on how effective the service has been from the point of view of women or other demographic groups. Perhaps programme funders, commissioners and deliverers can improve their monitoring and communications around this issue.
For our part, we’re setting up some improved feedback mechanisms. We would like to understand more about how women are represented and supported in the work we do. We want to know whether proportionate, equal or unequal numbers of women and men receive business support from us and whether the advice we provide enables them to achieve successful outcomes. We are creating a brief survey - which will be sent to everyone who receives business support from us from whichever programme they are on - to track this gender related data and outcomes. This also got us thinking: we need to extend this analysis to disability, age, ethnicity and more.
We will report back when we have more data – we are committed to being transparent about this and we aim to always act with integrity in all we do, after all, we are seeking to make the world a fairer, more equal place. We would like to thank SEUK and University of Westminster for their support and advice in setting us on this course.