Article by Reas, Red de redes, Spain

What is the profile of women entrepreneurs in the SSE? With this question in mind, REAS has carried out an investigation whose report is being made public on the occasion of 8M to fuel the debate on measures and actions in favour of gender equality.

With the aim of gaining an in-depth knowledge of the competences of these women, their contributions and the new forms of leadership that they are involved in, REAS Red de Redes has published the study “Women in the Social and Solidarity Economy. Profile of competencies and training needs to increase and make their leadership more visible”, to identify those competencies in which women have greater margins for learning and improvement, and those that require visibility, promotion and impulse to achieve their own style of leadership.

The main key messages of the study, financed by the Fundae, are as follows:

  1. DESIGNING THE COMPETENCY PROFILE OF WOMEN IN THE SSE: Although for the purposes of this study it has been necessary and feasible to draw the most common competence profile of women who undertake, work, collaborate or lead enterprises in the Social and Solidarity Economy, it should not be forgotten that the environment has a certain variety in this aspect, a challenge that the study has tried to address by combining different points of view.
  2. DEVELOPMENT OF “SOFT” SKILLS: Although women in the SSE generally believe they are competent in terms of “soft” skills and attitudes, there is an evident eagerness to work on and strengthen them. The study confirms that strengthening people’s interpersonal, emotional and cognitive competencies is seen as important for empowering and transforming the SSE work ecosystem.
  3. DEVELOPMENT OF “HARD” SKILLS: The development of “hard” skills remains relevant for the development of the SSE, but training actions aimed at strengthening them have to be adjusted to the characteristics of this unique environment. Only an approach that is in line with the values and principles of the SSE, that understands the aims it pursues and that is adapted to its specificities, has a place. In addition, ways must be found to encourage interest in non-vocational areas.
  4. THE ENVIRONMENT AND WORK CLIMATE: The SSE surrounds women with significantly more egalitarian working conditions and a much more considerate and respectful work climate than does the conventional economy. However, as a self-reflective and self-critical environment, it recognises that there is room for improvement.
  5. DIVERSITY: Incorporating socio-economic and cultural diversity into its structures is one of the challenges of the SSE work environment with the highest priority. Solving it can bring great benefits to the sector, such as diversifying the supply of its products and services, closing the production chain internally, incorporating new skills profiles and innovating in the sector.
  6. EQUITY: Equity being one of its main values, the SSE ecosystem must strive to ensure that the working environment it creates offers its participants fair opportunities. To this end, it is necessary to promote a more proportionate and consistent coexistence of different leadership styles, making the qualities of female leadership visible, strengthening competencies through training, implementing specific strategies and transforming itself from its structures.
  7. FEMALE LEADERSHIP STYLE: Women have their own leadership style: they cooperate, care, democratise and humanise processes. At the same time, they close circles by attending to the business aspects whose importance they recognise and by managing complex situations if necessary. This is always in line with the principles of the SSE, which they never lose sight of, always seeking a balance between values and business aspects. Women’s leadership does not have visibility among its priority objectives, so it often remains in the shadows.
  8. EQUALITY BENEFITS: Enhancing not only female leadership itself, but also replicating its style among other gender identities can bring many benefits to organisations. This can be achieved by addressing the issue holistically, designing training that directly and indirectly contributes to meeting this need.
  9. TRAINING CHALLENGES: Training must find ways to embed itself in people’s day-to-day work, to offer support based on continuity and real problem solving, to make knowledge applicable in practice, to propose tailor-made content and formats that are not obsolete, and to generate new spaces to foster the acquisition of competencies. Trainers have to understand the principles of SSE and the contents have to be aligned with these values.
  10. CROSS-CUTTING TRAINING: In addition to strengthening women’s competencies, for greater gender equality, men also need to be trained. In addition to acquiring the skills characteristic of women’s leadership style, they must strengthen attitudes that support greater visibility of women’s work; they must proactively and deliberately encourage women’s participation.

We invite you to consult the rest of the report (in Spanish) in the conviction that women’s unique skills can be an important competitive resource in the entrepreneurial process, and in the current economic model in general, incorporating and promoting new forms of leadership that foster gender equality and other more social and sustainable ways of doing business.