Social enterprises are businesses set up to reduce inequalities with the latest state of the sector report – No Going Back showing how vital social enterprises are if we are to truly “level-up” the country and build the equitable and sustainable economy we need.

One aspect the social enterprise community has prided itself on has been its diversity. Research has consistently shown that social enterprises are, on the whole, more representative of society as a whole than traditional businesses. 47% are led by women and 14% are led by people from racialised communities – both noticeable higher than traditional businesses. They are also more likely to employ people from their local community, with 85% drawing their teams from their local area. We also know that generally social enterprises are better employers both in terms of paying a real Living Wage (72%) and engaging staff in the running of the business.

The sector rightly has much to be proud of but if we break down the stats further and look beyond the headlines we see that it still has more work to do when it comes to breaking down barriers for specific groups. Both female led and racialised community-led social enterprises turnover less than the average for the sector. The median turnover for a social enterprise led by Black women is £31,900 compared to the overall median turnover of £100,000. We have to ask ourselves why this is the case?

Businesses led by members from a racialised community are less likely to be able to access the finance they need, tend to be more reliant on grant funding and are more likely to have made a loss in the last financial year.

On the flip side of this we are seeing real dynamism amongst these businesses – social enterprises led by people from racialised communities are more likely to be innovating and introducing new products and services.

Questions need to be asked as to why finance and support is not going to the organisations that need it but if we are to be a sector committed to anti-racism and challenging inequalities then we need to make sure we are doing all we can as organisations to be both representative and inclusive.

Ishita Ranjan, founder and Director of Spark & Co addressed this at the launch of the State of Social Enterprise Report. As well as talking about the barriers faced by social enterprises led by and supporting racialised communities, Ishita talked about the importance of embedding principles of equity, diversity and inclusion within businesses.

She mentioned that social enterprises should not just be looking at recruitment to increase representation but also go beyond just hiring more diverse staff to focus on issues such as staff retention and progression. It’s not only about creating a more diverse team but about ensuring that people from underrepresented backgrounds are made to feel welcome and flourish at work.

We are going to be building on this at Social Enterprise Futures with a session dedicated to how to effectively build a diverse and inclusive team which Ishita will be chairing. Panellist will include Ama Afrifa-Tchie, Head of People Wellbeing & Equity at Mental Health First Aid England, Jane Hatton, CEO at Evenbreak and Lisa Maynard-Atem, Managing Director at The Black United Representation Network.

From the impact of racism on mental health to how to take steps to break down barriers for people with disabilities – this is a vital session to help build your understanding of the issues faced by underrepresented groups in the workplace.

Join us and find out just why this work is so important and to come away with steps you can take to embed diversity and inclusion in your business.

Sign up forSocial Enterprise Talent – Is your team inclusive? How to effectively build a diverse & inclusive team’ on Thursday 11 November at 14:00 –

With the cost of your ticket (£20) you can access all sessions at Social Enterprise Futures – a month-long digital festival for those who believe that changing how we do business is vital to building a fairer, more sustainable world. We’ll be joined by Nobel Laureate economists, academics, senior politicians and business leaders as well as inspiring speakers from within the social enterprise movement >>

You can read more about Ishita and Spark & Co’s story in ‘No Going Back: The State of Social Enterprise Survey 2021’