International Women’s Day

For International Women's Day 2021, Ceri-Anne Fidler reflects on the challenges the pandemic has posed for women across Wales, the impact on women in social enterprise and the potential role of social enterprise in addressing these.

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Wales is fortunate to have many social enterprises led by passionate and enthusiastic women, championing social justice and making a real difference in their communities.  International Women’s Day is an opportunity to celebrate these women and their achievements.  But in a year where we are still in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is also an opportunity to reflect on the challenges the pandemic has posed for women across Wales, the impact on women in social enterprise and the potential role of social enterprise in addressing these.

The pandemic is particularly effecting women in the workplace, with the Fawcett Society warning that women’s workplace equality is being put back decades.  For example, mothers are more likely to lose their job as a result of the pandemic and a quarter of mums are worried about losing their jobs either through being singled out for redundancy, sacked or denied hours. Is this an opportunity to work with those women most impacted by the pandemic and encourage them to consider social enterprise?  The Senedd’s Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee recently urged Welsh Government to review its redundancy support and careers advice programmes to ensure that they are fully resourced and equipped to deliver an increased level of tailored support to women. Those delivering this support to women should be made aware of the social enterprise model through support and training so that they can signpost women to social enterprise business support.

The pandemic has also been particularly challenging for the childcare sector, which predominantly employs women.  This may be an opportunity to consider afresh potential co-operative and social enterprise models of childcare that empower parents and staff.  These models can be innovative and offer families affordable childcare.

Finally, a global survey of the social enterprise response to Covid found that women-led social enterprises seem to have been more adversely affected by the crisis, with almost a third seeing activity reduce.  Our most recent survey of the sector in Wales found that 92% of businesses surveyed having at least one woman in their management team as opposed to 89% across the rest of the UK. How then are women in social enterprises in Wales facing the challenges posed by the pandemic? How can we capture the experiences of these women working in social enterprise in Wales during the pandemic?  What support do women and women-led social enterprises need as we weather the pandemic?  Please let us know your thoughts.