What is Women of Impact?
Women of Impact is a 12 month training, mentorship, advisory and acceleration programme which pairs Women Empowering Social Enterprises (WESEs) with teams of lawyers and business professionals who serve as mentors and help address barriers to growth through the provision of pro bono advice and business support. This is then underpinned by a series of training modules and networking opportunities which are tailored to the WESEs' needs.
By providing a range of support, including training, mentorship, legal and business advice and networking events, Women of Impact (WoI) aims to remove structural barriers and increase the capacity of female leaders to address the problems female-led social enterprises in particular face.
We help maximise the social impact of WESEs by applying targeted expert professional / financial services support to help our WESEs scale and become more sustainable.
Women of Impact was borne out of the desire to address the underrepresentation of women in leadership positions, and the underrepresentation of scaled women empowering businesses. Specifically, we seek to address the unique challenges women entrepreneurs face accessing financial and non-financial business support.
Prime Advocates launched the programme’s pilot launched in March 2016, with our law firm partner Weil, Gotshal & Manges providing structured support for one social enterprise. The first cohort (Jan - Dec 2017), comprised of four award-winning WESEs. Over the course of the first cohort, over 174 hours of volunteering were logged by Weil’s staff, involving the participation of over 23 volunteers. The second cohort (2018) includes five award-winning WESEs. Our law firm partner saw a 240% increase in volunteer participation, from 10 core volunteers in the first cohort, to 34 in the second. As of August 2018 Weil staff have dedicated over 500 hours of pro bono work, and Prime staff have dedicated over 900 hours of pro bono towards the programmes.
In June 2018 we added Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe as a partner under the programme supporting WESE(s) with more partner firms and banks due to follow in the near future.
Women are under-represented at the leadership level in social enterprises, just as they are in the for-profit sector:
Only 23% of social enterprises in the UK are women-led, while 49% are entirely or majority male-led.
35% of social enterprises consider difficulty obtaining finance an obstacle to success.
Only 3 - 5% of venture capital funding goes to women-led start-ups.
Investors are 60% more likely to invest in pitches delivered by men than women.
Only 33% of women had a belief in their own capability, compared to 50% of men.
Women entrepreneurs face greater structural barriers to gaining financial and non-financial support to scale, e.g. lack of self-belief, self-perceived lack of key business skills and limited access to quality role models, business mentors and professional networks.
The Women of Impact programme defines ‘WESEs’ as social enterprises that:
Are women led or co-led; and/or
Fundamentally support women and girls as beneficiaries of their products or services; and
Are scalable with an established proof of concept.
Women Empowering Social Enterprises (or ‘WESEs’) particular needs include:
Bespoke specialist training on vital business and impact topics
Strategic growth support and mentorship
Mechanisms for building professional and investment networks
Free access to legal, financial and business services
Prime Advocates’ Women of Impact programme is a 12 month training, mentorship, advisory, and social enterprise accelerator programme designed specifically to meet these needs by:
Offering a flexible curriculum of expert-led training modules covering pertinent topics relevant to social enterprises,
Pairing WESEs with dedicated mentorship teams from professional service firms and facilitating the provision of legal and business advice, and
Introducing WESEs to networks they need to grow their businesses sustainably.