Entrepreneurship, Edición 60, Current Issue

High Impact Women Entrepreneurs in Mexico

By: Nomara Parra Sánchez

In recent years there has been a significant growth in the number of agents that make up the entrepreneurial ecosystem of Mexico. In this ecosystem, private equity funds, accelerators, incubators, entrepreneurship centers, mentors, angel investors and a host of public and private sector bodies have gradually been added with the same purpose: to help and train high level entrepreneurs. In addition to being perceived by various ecosystem players, this growth has been reflected in studies such as the one conducted by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), which measures the factors that increase entrepreneurship levels worldwide. According to the results of the GEM, from 2010 to 2014, the rate of early entrepreneurial activity in Mexico rose from 10.5% to 19%, that is, the number of entrepreneurs, owners and managers of new businesses between the ages of 18 and 64 nearly doubled. Has this growth also meant that there are more women entrepreneurs?

Everything seems to indicate that yes, although there is still a long way to go to encourage the entrepreneurship of more women and, in this way, reduce the gender gap. According to the Female Entrepreneurship Index, an analysis of 77 countries prepared by the Global Entrepreneurship and Development Institute, which measures the conditions that encourage and motivate women to become entrepreneurs, the country with the best conditions for “entrepreneurship” is the United States, with a score of 82.9 (the maximum score is 100 points), followed by Australia and the United Kingdom. Among the top 15 places, the only country in Latin America we find is Chile. What position does Mexico occupy? The 41st place, and it is among the 61% of countries that obtained a qualification lower than 50 points, indicating that it still does not offer favorable conditions for women entrepreneurs.

What needs improvement? According to the entrepreneurial ecosystem that has been formed in each country, different objectives and public policies must be pursued. For example, in Europe, there is talk of helping women so they can more easily detect business opportunities; in Latin America of focusing on exports and thinking about foreign customers; in Africa, of improving access to sources of finance; and in East Asia, if improving women’s perception of their own knowledge and skills to start their company (Female Entrepreneurship Index, 2015).

Based on the results of the index, it is observed that women entrepreneurs still face several challenges. Ireri Ablanedo, a consultant in social development and civil society, explains that support networks that allow women to dedicate time to their endeavors are needed. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) indicates that the burden of unpaid work (Mexican women dedicate four hours a day more to unpaid work than men), traditional gender roles and the lack of reconciliation policies between work and family life are barriers faced by women in the labor market (IPADE, 2013).

If we want to see more women become entrepreneurs, we must break these barriers. The idea is not only “to want more female entrepreneurs,” but also to reap the benefits they bring to their community and environment. For example, women spend more than 70% of their earnings on the community and their families, while men only inject between 30 and 40% of their resources to these ends (Mexican Association of Women Entrepreneurs, Ammje, 2013). At the same time, according to Julieta Cayre, director of Girls in Tech Uruguay, the fact that there are women co-founders in the ventures generates another vision and another culture, better teams and work environments. In addition, a study by the Pax Ellevate Global Women’s Index Fund showed that when women hold leadership positions in companies, they achieve better returns and greater degrees of innovation, retention and job satisfaction.

Despite the increase in the number of female entrepreneurs since 2008 and the fact that they are starting up businesses not only in social sectors, but also in various industries, such as retail, technology and health, there is a need to increase this number and, therefore, and to hear more cases of success, as Hernán Fernández, founding partner of Angel Ventures México, says.

The full incorporation of women into these activities will not be solved by quotas, but by measures that ensure equal opportunities in the context of gender differences. It is not a matter of women and men being equal, but of generating conditions with sensitivity to gender issues.

The formulation of policies that take into account gender differences should consider the following factors:

  • Equality in access to advanced training, especially in fields traditionally dominated by men.

  • Equal conditions for the permanence and consolidation of the training of women.

  • Generation of an environment conducive to the full development of women in the business field.

The generation of equal conditions for women’s access to and permanence in education and entrepreneurship implies a deep awareness of their differences and the need to overcome the obstacles that hinder their incorporation into these areas of work.

It is necessary to identify the barriers that inhibit women’s entrepreneurship, such as stereotypes, lack of self-esteem and lack of encouragement and recognition by parents, teachers and counselors. Stimulus strategies should be designed for women. Some of the actions that have been successful are the promotion of networks, the diffusion of new role models and support activities in the initial stages.

At present, the economic, social and cultural potential of women’s work is an essential part of the viability of any national development project. For this reason, and to contribute to the diffusion of new models of social roles, let us look at examples of women who have excelled in the entrepreneurial ecosystem for their innovation and impact:

  • Guadalupe Latapi, founder of Aires de Campo

Marketing of organic products with a network of producers integrated by family farms, indigenous and peasant cooperatives, and small and medium scale agro-industries.

  • Leticia Jáuregui, founder of Crea

Social enterprise that trains and provides advice to women entrepreneurs from marginalized communities to strengthen and grow their businesses. To date, Crea has worked with more than 16,000 women and has benefited them and more than 65,000 members of their families and communities.

  • Juana Ramírez, founder of Sohin (Soluciones Hospitalarias Integrales)

Company with a portfolio of personalized services whose objective is to improve the quality of life of patients and their families, reduce the costs of hospital care and expedite the procedures of insurance companies.

  • Gabriela León, founder of Gresmex

Mexican company specializing in antibacterial and home care products, which by means of nanotechnology eliminates up to 99% of viruses and bacteria. (WeGrow, 2014).

  • Arali Camacho, founder of School Control

School administration and communication platform that keeps schools connected to students and parents in an easy and safe way.

  • Gabriela Enrigue, founder of Prospera

A company that offers solutions for micro and small businesses to grow, offers products that are competitive globally and become instruments that generate wealth for society.

What distinguishes all of them is the passion with which they dedicate themselves to their young companies and that, although they probably did not have the ideal conditions to start a business, they demonstrated that it could be done. Their stories serve to inspire millions of women.

For a woman who is planning to start a business, there are several useful recommendations, such as the following:

  1. Take the initiative. More than a third of Mexican women between the ages of 15 and 29 do not study or work (Labor Secretariat, 2011).

  2. Believe in your personal abilities. Women tend to underestimate their entrepreneurial skills and do not believe they are sufficiently prepared. The ideal time to start is when the decision is made. Along the way you learn what is needed.

  3. Think big. Once the decision to start a business is made, efforts must be directed toward creating a new, scalable and innovative company, rather than a traditional business.

  4. Form multidisciplinary teams. No one is looking for virtuous entrepreneurs, but teams that complement each other. It is not ideal to have teams made up of only men or only women.

  5. Generate the desired working conditions. In a new company, it is necessary to promote the changes that are required for the business to function well.

  6. Be consistent. An entrepreneur’s first initiative may not give results, but what matters is perseverance.

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