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The Rise of Social Entrepreneurship: Women and B Schools Play a Role

The visibility of social entrepreneurship has been on the rise in recent years. What’s behind this? The efforts of some extraordinary female founders, as well as business schools.

By Srikanth Naidu (MBA student, Wharton San Francisco)

One in every eleven adult women is an entrepreneur. These female founders provide jobs to an estimated 18 million workers and generate $2 to 3 trillion in revenue. These facts establish the pivotal role women entrepreneurs play in the US economic landscape in general. But social responsibility movements, including social entrepreneurship, are on the rise in the last few years, and women are already leaving their mark in these fields in particular.

They’re leading the charge on innovating new businesses with social responsibility embedded in their enterprises’ DNA. And business schools are helping them do it.

More Women at B Schools

First, business schools are fostering an ecosystem for women students. It is well known that women are in general under-represented in many spheres of corporate America, so it doesn’t come as a surprise that business schools also deal with the issue of women’s underrepresentation. But many of them have been focusing on this issue over the last few years. Take Wharton San Francisco, for example.

According to Wharton San Francisco’s COO Bernie Birt, the school is working towards attracting highly talented women to their programs and the 2014 class of the school’s MBA for Executives program is up to 19% female. Even if this is not close to the 50% mark, it is moving in the right direction and puts Wharton right in the confluence of women’s business education, entrepreneurship and social responsibility.

More Social Entrepreneurship at B Schools

There is also renewed interest in schools around the country for a more engaging social entrepreneurship curriculum. Wharton is again a good case in point. Wharton San Francisco has been in operation for well over ten years and has a vibrant program around entrepreneurship. Beginning in the 2012-2013 academic year, students from the MBA for executives program chose “Social Impact and Responsibility” as a second year elective, reflecting the growing popularity of social entrepreneurship. As a result of the case discussions from that class, a group of students decided to organize the Wharton Social Impact Conference in San Francisco on April 4th, 2013, where several female social entrepreneurs, including Playworks founder Jill Vialet, Samasource co-founder Leila Janah, and Erin Gruwell, the founder of Freedom Writers Foundation, will speak.

This is just one data point in Silicon Valley and there are many other examples to be found. Through the Global Consulting Practicum (GCP), several groups of students have also joined forces to consult with the Gates Foundation on their humanitarian efforts in Kenya, and with indigenous aboriginal populations in Australia to improve their marketing strategy, etc. This has resulted in an enhanced view of social responsibility and a greater appreciation of business as a force for good in the society. Thus, business schools find themselves playing a more significant role in fostering a thriving ecosystem for social entrepreneurs.

Women 2.0 readers: Why do you think the profile of social entrepreneurship has been on the rise?

Srikanth NaiduAbout the guest blogger: Srikanth Naidu is a second year student at the Wharton MBA program.  He has worked 10+ years in Indian slums on basic literacy, hygiene and healthcare projects.  He is a consultant in the Pacific Northwest. Follow him on Twitter @naidus.

Image credit: University of Salford via Flickr