Mexican painter Frida Kahlo , whose paintings sell for millions of dollars at auctions around the world; writer JK Rowling, author of Harry Potter ; Oprah Winfrey, personality and media mogul in the United States; Malala Youssef , a women’s rights activist and 2014 Nobel Peace Prize winner, have one thing in common: They are all resilient women who managed to put a positive turn on their lives in the face of adversity .
Resilience, that spirit that keeps us afloat day by day and allows us to overcome the challenges that life faces us, is the weapon that women entrepreneurs carry these days when we have overcome all kinds of challenges such as loss jobs, anxiety and fear that our loved ones will fall ill from COVID-19 . The “other pandemic” , the Argentine neuroscientist Facundo Manes calls it.
The data from the International Labor Organization (ILO) is overwhelming. The economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic left 13.1 million women unemployed in Latin America and the Caribbean . Many businesses closed their doors, above all, companies dedicated to offering services and in which close to 50% of the female workforce worked. 2020 was a complicated year for everyone and more so for resilient women who are working. Until before the pandemic, progress had been detected on issues of labor equality. Although timidly, a positive change was beginning to be felt for women. But COVID-19 arrived and gender inequality became evident above all in Latin America and the Caribbean, testing the existing fragilities in the social fabric.
A World Bank study found that women, traditionally responsible for caring for children and the elderly, were also left in charge of caring for the sick during the epidemic. With multiple responsibilities, some of us had to take on an additional workload as schools closed and quarantines were extended. Many others reduced working hours or flat, opted to leave the labor market. The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) , reported that the pandemic generated a setback of more than a decade in the levels of labor participation of women in the region. In 2018, 52% of women participated in the labor market in the region, compared to 77% of men. In 2020, there was a decrease of 6 percentage points. Only 46% of women worked, compared to 69% of men.
What have we women done in this scenario? Adapt and undertake. Be resilient and seek opportunities in the face of the new reality that we had to live. Even in the most complicated scenarios, female entrepreneurship is a driving force behind us. And even more so for us Latina women that we never take no for an answer. According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) report , Latin America is the region with the highest percentage of female entrepreneurship in the world. In Mexico, these days we have met the “nenis”, women who became famous by offering with ingenuity, products and services through social networks: from cakes, to designer jewelry or ready-made clothing. And if at first the term arose as a mockery towards them, very soon the word “neni” -which comes from a girl- was a source of pride for mothers, daughters, friends and sisters who during the pandemic were encouraged to undertake.
The Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs (MIWE) is a report that annually reveals the pros and cons faced by businesses led by women in 58 economies around the world. In this edition, MIWE data shows how many women are looking for their entrepreneurial path: 42% of them moved their business models to the online universe this year, while 37% are developing new businesses that respond to the needs of the place and of the moment, and 34% identified new business opportunities during the pandemic.
This same study indicates that in the Latin American region, Colombia is the best country to be an entrepreneur as it shows a high movement driven by need and an abundant representation of women business leaders. They are followed by Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Uruguay, Costa Rica, Peru and Ecuador .
A Japanese proverb says: “If you fall 7 times, get up 8”. And that is the spirit that moves the entrepreneurs, leaders of their own destinies, example and model for daughters, nieces, relatives, friends and neighbors, who inspire us and who with their daily actions show us that the objectives are achieved with constant work. and having clarity in their goals, that giving up is not an option and that if we fail once we will try again three more times.
Let’s celebrate the courage of these resilient women, who, armed with resilience and creativity, dare to create new opportunities for all.