NextAdvisor Michelle Wright on the Rise of the Female Intrapreneur

TheNextWomen article by Michelle Wright on the rise of the female intrapreneurAward-winning social entrepreneur Michelle Wright, Founder & CEO of Cause4, writes here with Cause4 Associate Isabel Richards on the rise of the female ‘intrapreneur’.

Michelle Wright has signed up as a NextAdvisor in The NextWomen's Business Advice Programme. Click here for details on the Programme and to apply. 

The ‘intrapreneur’ acts like an entrepreneur within a large company – leading change and innovation from within.and it seems that women are particularly well placed to lead this work from within their companies.

There are three reasons why social intrapreneurship makes sense:

1. Influence.

Large corporate organisations have the resources and reach to impact the most stubborn of social challenges.

2. The power of numbers.

The Harvard Business Review has found that with an organisation of 5,000 employees you can be statistically assured that 250 of those have the skills key to being a successful innovator.

3. A firm framework.

For all the rigidity that a corporate framework represents, a clear set of values can be invaluable in gaining support for an idea.

And here are some amazing stories of women driving success in the key areas of social intrapreneurship:

1. Storytelling and relationship building.

Implementing a new idea within a large business requires successfully convincing colleagues of the idea’s value.

Building successful relationships and selling a strong narrative are often skills attributed to successful female leaders.

Take the example of COO Facebook Sheryl Sandberg, author of Lean In. She uses her platform to tell the stories we recognize and relate to from a deeply personal perspective, inspiring empathy in her listeners and readers and winning fans by demonstrating her vulnerability.

2. Flexible career.

Women are increasingly trying to find ways of being autonomous in their working life. However many feel that starting a business afresh is not a viable option alongside being a parent. The ability to support charitable and philanthropic causes from within allows for greater career flexibility over time.

Annie Longsworth, CEO of Saatchi and Saatchi S, the sustainability arm of the global communications and consulting firm believes that well-told stories can start wars, make people fall in love and build sustainable brands – the creation of lovemarks – brands that inspire loyalty beyond reason – this is a great example of innovation and connection from within a company. 

3. Wider motivations.

Getting recognition within a large company traditionally meant doggedly climbing a ladder to the exclusion of other endeavours and goals.

This pattern often doesn’t fit with family life or wider social motivations but working on CSR causes from within an organisation can significantly add value to the brand. The impact that a major firm such as Unilever has had on sustainability in the last year is a great credit to Karen Hamilton, Vice President, who with support from the top of the organisation has led the way in creation of a new sustainability strategy.

For those feeling stifled in a large business perhaps now is the time to look out for the intrapreneurs and social intrapreneurs that are, statistically speaking, just around the corner… there are most definitely more opportunities tucked away in corporate life than was once thought.

Michelle Wright has signed up as a NextAdvisor in The NextWomen's Business Advice Programme. Click here for details on the Programme and to apply. 

Michelle Wright founded award winning third sector organisational development and fundraising enterprise Cause4 in 2009. Michelle was the winner of the female entrepreneur category in the Natwest Startup awards 2011 and is a top 10 winner in the Ernst and Young Future 100 awards 2011 for entrepreneurs under 35 that demonstrate innovation in progressing a responsible business venture. She is a silver award winner in the 2012 international Stevie Awards for female innovator of the year and was invited in 2013 to become an Accelerate 250 member in recognition of the UK's top growing businesses. For more information on Michelle, see her profile.

Image courtesy of Toa55 / Free Digital Photos

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