Women’s Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation

Local Economic and Employment Development (LEED), Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)

Author +
Marieke Huysentruyt

Year: 2014

After having explained the smaller gender gap in social entrepreneurship compared to commercial entrepreneurship, this paper provides information on female management style and on the innovation capacity of social enteprises led by women. This Report is based on SELUSI data and presents three specific case studies from Hungary, Russia and Chile.

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A remarkable mind-shift seems today well underway: major social issues and challenges, be it in the area of sustainability and the environment or poverty and societal cohesion, are no longer perceived as restraints on growth and firm behaviors, but rather as opportunities, driving a new wave of growth and innovation. In other words, there is a new opportunity space for growth and innovation rapidly unfolding precisely at the intersection between societal trends and business activity. Socially responsible businesses and social enterprises are at the edge in this space – spearheading initiatives which aim to achieve a large, positive societal impact and at the same time are also economically viable or sustainable.

The focus of the present report is on social enterprise, admittedly a niche type of enterprise, but with arguably enormous (underexploited) potential to help lead society to evolve a genuine, caring “shared value” economy – a society where societal and economic progress are (again) much more tightly, boldly and positively linked together.

Table of Contents

I. Introduction to Social Enterprise and Innovation
II. The prevalence of Female-run Social Enterprises
III. Innovation by Female-run Social Enterprises
Basic descriptive characteristics
IV. Three Cases
V. Discussion and Implications for Policy-making



Table 1. Female directors and social enterprise revenue
Table 2. Female directors and Participatory Management Practices

Figure 1. Pressing social Issues + Business Activity
Figure 2. Social Entrepreneurs are more radical innovators
Figure 3. Men versus women social entrepreneurs
Figure 4. Social enterprises led by men versus women
Figure 5. Female social entrepreneurs and innovation

Box 1. Background about GEM and SELUSI Methodology
Box 2. Why sex differences in basic values and attitudes towards competition?
Box 3. Illustrations of innovations