By Editor of SocialBusiness.org
Due to the nature of my current projects for Social Business, I have been thinking quite a bit about women’s position and role in and round social entrepreneurship. This blog post more generally spans a greater trend, that is, women as consumers and creators of consumer products. Women shop. There have even countless studies about women and their viability as a marketing demographic.
In North America, we are exposed to a plethora of images, ads, media and messaging. A lot of it is directed at women. Buy this lipstick. Buy these diapers for your baby. This cleaning product is safest for your family. Lose weight by incorporating probiotics and antioxidants into your diet. How, then, do social entrepreneurship and consumerism (and advertising for consumerism) fit into the picture? (I’ve written more thoroughly about “The problems with so-called ‘conscious consumerism'” in the past if you’re interested to read that.) Clayton Reeves for Gaebler Ventures writes more positively about of consumerism “as a movement” and offers the following advice for entrepreneurs: A holistic approach that can avoid any of the common pitfalls of unethical marketing can save your company the hassle of dealing with customer complaints. Also, having a happy customer base will only create more growth opportunities for the company.
So, ignore trends in consumerism at your own peril. It’s a phenomenon that can impact your organization’s bottomline profits – for better or worse depending on your response.
Of course, what I’m saying nothing new in the grand scheme of things. But what I’m interested in is how social business captures this kind of messaging. Do they? Does it work? What are the implications? Many social good products are targeted at women.
In social entrepreneurship, there’s more to it than mere advertising and messaging. Gender is often built into the business model itself. And most often with those darn good intentions in mind. For Canadian social entrepreneur Barb Stegemann, her mission and means by which she seeks making it happen are explicit. Her aim through her social business The 7 Virtues is to harness North American women’s buying power in order to foster social change in less-industrialized countries. The idea for her business sprouted from her book, The 7 Virtues of a Philosopher Queen. In the United Kingdom, “Social enterprises are a natural home for female entrepreneurs and have more women on their boards than FTSE 100 companies. A quarter of social enterprises are owned by women, almost double the number of those running small private businesses,” according to Social Enterprise UK. Here is what I’ve been hinting at all along when it comes to the proliferation of women-focused for-profit social good products: are women more giving? Or just better shoppers? And perhaps more interestingly, does it matter? Certainly probably not to the social businesses profiting (socially and financially). But it says something about the rest of us and the state of buying to give.