The social economy is an essential field in promoting gender equality. In most countries, women often make up more than 60% of the workforce, and gaps in leadership and pay have been reported lower. It is because social economy organisations prioritise people over profit and embody values such as solidarity, inclusivity, equality, and democratic governance. Therefore, the social economy field is an excellent example of how to start advancing gender equality in the wider economy.
Women’s jobs are of higher quality, offer better stability, and have smaller wage gaps. In fact, gender gaps in pay and leadership are much lower in the social economy, especially in comparison to other economic fields. In most cases, women earn only around 6% less than their male colleagues. However, lower pay gaps are not the only thing attracting women. Other motivational factors are more resilient jobs, and the fact that the share of women in management positions in many social economy enterprises is higher than in the broader economy. This means that women represent a larger share of managers than in the total labour force in most European countries. Therefore, women are really more likely to become managers in social economy enterprises. Overall, it shows that the social economy can inspire the broader economy through principles of primacy of people or profit and more democratic and inclusive modes of governance.
Another point is that the social economy puts people over profit for equity, solidarity, and mutuality. The promotion of such important values makes the social economy boost the value of traditionally female or women’s roles and stimulate more sustainable practices. In the social economy, labour conditions are generally more favourable to the reconciliation of family life and work obligations, which is an essential factor for women beyond their salary and power. Moreover, the majority of the enterprises offer material and parental leave, and around three-quarters offer sickness leave. Therefore, this is another crucial condition that fosters an inclusive working environment, promoting gender equality.
Ultimately, the social economy is an excellent field for women as it offers opportunities to transition from informal to formal employment. It is also a much better field than other economies, as it increases women’s participation in the labour force by either supplying standard jobs to women or providing essential care and education services that enable women to participate in the economy. Furthermore, it applies a gender lens and more sustainable approaches to doing business, reducing gender gaps in leadership and pay.
However, an important fact must be highlighted: even though women are in a better situation in social economy companies than in other companies, there is still a long way to go.