The social enterprise sector is ripe for realizing the multiplier effects of women’s leadership: Women are more likely to hire other women, to focus on women beneficiaries, and to pass on their gains to female family members.

That’s especially true in India, where nearly 25 percent of social enterprises are led by women. By comparison, less than 9 percent of India’s commercial small and medium enterprises have a woman at the helm.

We need more women social entrepreneurs. Addressing this disparity calls for new approaches in gender-lens investing, which considers the impact of financial investments on women, and support for social enterprise. Our recent British Council Activist to Entrepreneur study examined the perspectives of some of the many women social entrepreneurs in India on how to advance these aims. We found that anything short of persistent efforts that challenge existing norms and beliefs — including about social enterprise itself — is unlikely to open up more opportunities.

Founding a social enterprise is no small feat, and women in India face the additional barriers of prejudice, discrimination, and family pressure. But those women who surmount these challenges find the outcome empowering. Of the female social entrepreneurs who responded to our survey, a vast majority reported that they had developed increased confidence (82 percent) and an increased sense of self-worth (80 percent) as a result of founding their venture.

Becoming a social entrepreneur can also elevate a woman’s status in her family and community. In our survey, 47 percent of women social entrepreneurs reported increased respect within their families, compared to only 29 percent of their male counterparts. This form of empowerment was particularly significant for entrepreneurs from less-privileged socio-economic backgrounds.

Read the full article on how to support women-led enterprises in India by Isabel Salovaara & Jeremy Wade at Stanford Social Innovation Review.