IWD 2023

BSSEC CIC: Equality, Equity and Economic Justice

Today, 8th March 2023, is International Women’s Day, with a theme this year of ‘Embrace Equity’, and we are exploring the importance of the language that supports our actions in striving towards an ever more inclusive and fairer society.

We hear a lot about Equality in terms of EDI (Equality Diversity and Inclusion) and the HR setting within business, and rightly so. According to the Cambridge Dictionary definition it’s about everyone, regardless of gender, position or background, being able to receive the same treatment.


the right of different groups of people to have a similar (social) position and receive the same treatment

Enshrined in the Equality Act 2010, there are nine protected characteristics that are considered essential to reducing discrimination for all – one being gender. Given International Women’s Day, let’s look at women-led business and equality. We know that 83% of social enterprise leadership teams include a woman and 47% of social enterprises are led by women. This compares with only 6% of FTSE100 companies having female CEOs and only 18% of SMEs being +50% owned by a woman across the private sector businesses, as evidenced in the SEUK State of Social Enterprise Survey 2021.

So, yes, Equality is hugely important – but what if we look at Equity too?

It gives us a different perspective…

Equity is not only focused on reducing discrimination, it’s about ensuring everyone’s needs are fairly met.


the situation in which everyone is treated fairly according to their needs and no group of people is given special treatment

How do we meet equity needs without creating ‘positive discrimination’?

When we look to reduce discrimination, we can (occasionally) find an outcome of those well-intentioned actions mean that we create an environment where one group becomes inadvertently preferred or promoted over others. We create ‘positive discrimination’ that so favours the original disadvantaged group we create a ripple effect of secondary, unintentional discrimination, even at a low level.

Equity takes everyone’s requirements into account and looks to support individuals around personalisation needs (we all have them, some are simply more obvious than others!).

Equity is an enabler of inclusion and fairness. It promotes the creation of opportunities, provides a framework for reaching potential and supports people to ‘be their best’, whatever that may be.

Yes, women across cultures have historically been challenged in respect independent finance, voting rights, free speech, access to education… and so many other issues.

Yes, slowly society is changing and more women are starting businesses, taking up leadership roles, sharing their stories, having a voice and catalysing change. Economic justice, not just for women but for all, is the next step in the conversation.

Can we do more?

Absolutely, yes!

In a thriving social economy, individuals (and the workplace) would be free from bias and discrimination, and there would be a fully diverse, inclusive, equitable, fairer society that truly celebrates social mobility and embodies social justice across gender, economics, education, belief, and all 9 protected characteristics. Utopia… may be but let’s set big ambitions!

“As a woman working in the social enterprise sector for the last 15 years, I have (joyfully) seen the rise in women’s confidence, ability and acumen. With one fifth of new businesses in 2022 being female-led there is still some way to go but we particularly celebrate the growing number of younger women (16-25 years) who are setting up enterprises as our next generation of entrepreneurs.

Let’s keep pushing and raising the bar – not only in the area of equality but equity and achieving greater social and economic justice for a truly sustainable, thriving social economy.”

Happy International Women’s Day to all, and all that support amazing women and entrepreneurs doing incredible things across, within and for, a fairer society! #EmbraceEquity

Sallie Ryan


Sallie Ryan | Director

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