If you want to be a true social entrepreneur, you need to embrace diversity


The Founder's Vision CEO Shannon Threlfall.

Can you really call yourself a social entrepreneur if your workplace isn’t diverse?

As social entrepreneurs, it can be our natural tendency to look at the problems on the outside of our organisation. The issues in society are plentiful and incredibly complex. So it is easier to focus our efforts for change and making a difference ‘out there’. We have seen a problem that needs solving and have designed a business around finding a solution that will benefit many.

However, often we need to look within our own businesses to see if we are really building a social enterprise, and if we are creating as much impact as possible.

And by this, I mean looking at who is working in your business.

Studies have shown we tend to surround ourselves with people who are just like us. It is generally unconscious, as we seek out people who think like us, act like us and look like us. 

However, this can be a severe hindrance to our business.

In order to truly call your business a social enterprise, it also needs to be diverse with regards to the types of people that work there. That means ability, race, gender identification, religion, culture, education and sexual orientation.

While you don’t have to check every one of these boxes (for example, a company that develops sanitary products for women would possibly not benefit from having cis men on its team), it is vital that you are consciously aware of the diversity, or lack thereof, that exists within your business.

If you notice your business is lacking diversity, it is your responsibility and duty as a social entrepreneur to address this problem. This would include learning about minority groups, actively seeking these people out to work with you and making them feel welcome in applying.

Don’t just assume that everyone will feel welcome to apply just because they have experience in the role.

You need to be very vocal on your website, in your job advertisements and social media about the type of team you surround yourself with, or are building. 

People want to see people who look like them. And if you don’t yet have a diverse team (and it is easily noticeable on your website or social media), be open and honest about why and the fact that you are trying to build one.

Personally, I am not in a minority group. As a white, cis, heterosexual woman, I don’t experience and can’t even imagine the struggles that women who don’t fit this description face. It is enough just to try to live and work within a patriarchal society. 

But I do think founding an impact driven business should be built upon diversity and inclusivity.

Social entrepreneurship is all about using business to create positive change in the world. However, these changes can’t really be fulfilled if there is a section of the population who aren’t being involved. 

The benefits of social enterprises are supposed to be reaped by all, whether directly or indirectly.

And it begins within your own workplace. 

You can’t call yourself a social entrepreneur if everyone in your business looks like you. If you have a conscious or unconscious bias towards the people that are just like you, your actual business may seem to be creating positive change in the world, but it could go so much further if you actively pursued having a diverse team. 

This is not about presuming what minority groups want or need from a potential employer. Rather, it’s about getting business leaders to be more conscious about their team selection in order to eliminate any unconscious bias. 

I really believe social entrepreneurship starts with what is happening within a business and how it is structured, rather than what problem it is trying to solve on the outside. And the logical place to start for me is with the team, which is really the heart of the organisation.

Once business leaders realise diversity is an asset to their business, then we can all benefit from having all types of people involved in shaping and creating the future of our society. We don’t need superficial diversity just to satisfy quotas. We need it at a leadership level and beyond. 

Everyone needs their own representation within our society and everyone wants to see themselves working in all types of roles within all types of businesses.


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