This is a guest post by Susana García Robles, Chief Investment Officer of early stage investments at FOMIN

This week, as International Women’s Day is celebrated all over the world, I would like to reflect on the fruits of the work I have been doing for many years regarding women’s leadership.
Women have an important role in society to contribute to on several fronts: from the family perspective, we are all daughters and granddaughters; and many of us are sisters, cousins, and mothers. From the business perspective, the woman belongs in the same role as the man in the economy: we are nothing more nor less than men, not even in our responsibility to build a society from these two different aforementioned angles.
Equal but different. We provide something unique, just as men do, when we sit at the negotiation tables to analyze and commence business. Our perspective may incorporate dimensions that men do not incorporate, and viceversa.
Attitude – Being negative is unfashionable and is accompanied by poor results – Looking at the world as “us versus them” must be put to an end worldwide.
Even so, speaking a lot on equality has accomplished a lot to give women access to the business field. But we still have a lot to do. The barriers that exist cannot be ignored. To give a recent, popular example, not too long ago a Hollywood star stepped up to the podium and in his speech complained that actresses earn much less than actors for similar roles.
Some barriers are more easy to see than others. The obstacles that women face are evident when different cultures and parts of the world are compared – laws which state that women cannot drive or own property – while others are more subtle.
Rules do not exist that prevent women in Latin America from starting their own business. We have cases of renowned business women, such as Adriana Cisneros from Cisneros Group, Maria Inés Caruso of Rossi & Caruso, a business established 2 centuries ago in Argentina that continues to be an emblem of high-quality leather products. We have entrepreneurial women that have grown their startup into a powerful company, such as Inés Bertón with Tealosophy and Sonia Hess with Dudalina. So, why aren’t there more successful business women?
The reasons are not easily supported by one answer. In various countries in Latin America, women that are looking to start their own business must first overcome deep-rooted cultural obstacles, such as the stigma that the woman’s role is found exclusively in the house and the prejudice that women are not able to do business or take big risks.
In more sophisticated countries in the region, women may face a disadvantage because the business environment is not prepared to accept the way women do business.

Examples are abundant. Let’s take a look at golf. For the elite in the business field, golf has traditionally served as the favorite sport for entertainment, a place to relax. But for both the captains of the industry and the ambitious, a clear line between business and pleasure does not exist. Mergers, acquisitions and takeovers are closed between the first and ninth hole. These interactions, although “relational” are ultimately “transactional”. When women play golf…well, they only play golf. The level of interaction remains relational. If women are watching their children play, most likely, they are talking to other women who may have interesting professions, but they are not using these meetings for business. Women tend to be more “compartmental”: business is business and the rest is the rest: spending time with friends, playing sports, etc. We must learn not to miss opportunities!

Los ejemplos abundan. Tomemos golf por ejemplo. Para la elite del ámbito de los negocios, el golf ha servido tradicionalmente como el deporte favorito para entretenimiento, un lugar para relajarse. Pero tanto para los capitanes de la industria como para los ambiciosos, no existe una distinción clara entre negocios y placer. Fusiones, adquisiciones y take-overs se cierran entre el hoyo uno y nueve. Estas interacciones si bien “relacionales” son en última instancia también “transaccionales”. Cuando las mujeres juegan golf… bueno, juegan al golf. La interacción permanece al nivel relacional. Si las mujeres están viendo a sus hijos jugar, lo más probable es que estén hablando con otras mujeres que pueden tener profesiones interesantes, pero no están utilizando esos encuentros para hacer negocios. Las mujeres tienden a ser más “compartamentales”: los negocios son los negocios y el resto es el resto: disfrutar de amigos, practicar un deporte, etc. ¡Hay que aprender a no perder oportunidades!
Stereotypes are abundant. There is a prevalent belief that naturally, women are a more adverse risk – a belief that I find absolutely absurd.
Small business are a staircase , an accelerator , a way to stand out and make money outside of the typical corporate environment. Innovation happens through empowering startups. If we do not support entrepreneurial women, how can the economic engine be effective if it excludes half of the population that participates in it?

I would like to close with a person reflection.
Throughout my trips to Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Paraguay, Argentina, Uruguay, Colombia, Chile and Mexico, to name a few countries, I meet women who have brilliant ideas, an unquestionable passion to grow these ideas into businesses and the same tools – the world today is totally connected through the internet and social networks – as their peers in Silicon Valley.
So what is lacking for investors to become interested in their businesses? Visibility. If we count all Latin American and Caribbean women, we are a big demographic, but few are in the news. It is not easy for women to reach investors, or for investors to know they exist. The Latin American and Caribbean woman does not forget what we know and celebrate. We lack awareness and celebration for the Latin American and Caribbean Woman.
This is my challenge for entrepreneurial women during the week of March 8; that we write about our ideas and our startups and mention what we see is happening in the region…We flood the traditional mediums and social networks with our presence. We achieve the goal of reaching thousands of signatures supporting the Manifesto for the Day of the Latin American and Caribbean Woman Entrepreneur!
This is my wish: Each year, we have to talk less about women as a subject, because diversity is becoming a reality in the workplace. I try to do something everyday to promote this theme. You?

Biography of the author: Susana García Robles is Senior Investment Officer in charge of the Early Stage Financing Group MIF. She is Co-Founder of Wexchange, a meeting point and pitch competition for women entrepreneurs in Latin America and the Caribbean. Since 1999, Susan has created and directed MIF / FOMIN programs for seed capital fund investment and entrepreneurship in Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as its entrepreneurial strategy. Susana García Robles participates in more than 20 director and committee boards of seed capital and venture capital funds. She is frequently invited to speak about entrepreneurship and women’s issues at industry events. She is a member of: Working Group USA and Brazil / VC organized by the Department of Commerce US and the Kauffman Foundation, since 2006; co-founder of the Argentina Association of VC / PE (ARCAP) and the Colombian Association of VC / PEVC (ColCapital); Member of the Board of the Association of VC / PE in Latin America (LAVCA); member of the Advisory Council of the Brazilian Association of VC / PE (ABVCAP) and the Colombian Association of VC / PEVC (ColCapital); and member of the Board of Global Impact Investors / GIIN. Before 1999, Susana directed programs and leadership training for youth and women. She has a Masters in International Economic Policy from Columbia University, USA and a Masters in Philosophy and Education at the Catholic University of Argentina.


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