Women and social enterprises

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How gender integration can boost entrepreneurial solutions to poverty

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Publication Author

Allison M. Glinski, Lizzette Soria, Natacha Stevanovic, Liliane Winograd, Sara Ku, and Katherine Fritz

Recognizing the benefits of integrating women across the value chain – such as increased sales and profitability, and enhanced equity- now more than ever, investors are seeking opportunities in companies where gender has been integrated. ICRW in collaboration with Acumen, a non-profit investing in companies that serve the poor with basic good and services, set out to study how the impact investment sector can engage with and empower women.

Funded by the Cartier Charitable Foundation, this report highlights how engaging women throughout the value chain – as customers and employees – has the potential to make social enterprise more resilient, successful and impactful. For this study, an initial scan of 22 of Acumen’s portfolio companies was conducted, and six of these companies, as well as one non-Acumen company, were selected for in-depth case studies. The case studies span multiple industries and geographies, and explore how these social enterprises are integrating gender into their management systems, operations – and most importantly – how they are engaging women as consumers, and where this engagement has helped improve business and social performance.

The report provides a framework describing five main domains through which gender can be integrated into business processes, as well as a diagnostic tool to help enterprises evaluate strengths and areas for growth in their approach to integrate gender into their business models, and to identify new ways they can leverage gender integration to maximize impacts.