6 Inspiring Latin American Women Who Are Making an Impact
Latin America is one of the regions with the greatest obstacles for female entrepreneurship, mainly caused by gender gaps. The situation begins at childhood with girls receiving social rules regarding their behavior and goes all the way through adulthood with “female responsibilities” assigned by society. The disparity in the working environment doesn’t get any better, and difficulties that limit women’s professional growth arise, either within an organization or when starting or managing a business.
Access to financial capital or small business loans for women is a significant barrier preventing them from starting or growing their companies. This is often the case for any entrepreneur, but women founders tend to have a harder time. On average, women receive 23% less financing than men, according to Endeavor Insight.
The OECD points at two reasons that make it difficult for women with small businesses to access loans:
- The lack of significant assets, such as financial solvency.
- Cultural biases that reflect the lack of confidence from the lending and financial institutions in their ability as heads of companies.
Even though the situation is complicated, Latin America has one of the highest rates of Total Entrepreneurial Activity (TEA) for women, with 17.3%, according to the GEM Women’s Entrepreneurship Report of 2018/2019.
But not all women are starting their businesses with money motivation; some are leading non-government organizations (NGOs) and enterprises with a high sense of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Here are five stories of Latin American women who have become changemakers in their region.
Impact Latin American Women to Watch
Carmen Velasco and Lynne Paterson
One of the oldest women organizations in Latin America is ProMujer, founded in 1990 in Bolivia by Carmen Velasco and Lynne Paterson. The mission of this NGO is to reduce the cycle of poverty among women in the Bolivian Altiplano, bringing them essential services such as health, human development, and small business loans for women.
Since the beginning of the 90s decade, they have expanded their impact to high-poverty regions in Argentina, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Peru, and Mexico, benefiting more than 2 million people with small business loans for women, family planning services, and education.
According to the GEM Women’s Entrepreneurship Report, Argentina’s female entrepreneurial activity rate is 8.1%. This figure can scale if changes are made from an early age. With this motivation, Melina Masnatta founded Chicas en Tecnología, a non-profit organization that reduces the gender gap in the technological and scientific sectors.
From 2015 to date, they have impacted more than 44,500 girls between the ages of 13 and 17, to transform the educational and technological ecosystem with workshops, mentoring, and educational resources. Their scope extends to 14 provinces and 82 localities in Argentina.
Melina is an Ashoka Fellow, a global NGO that supports social entrepreneurs whose system-changing innovations solve deep-rooted social problems.
Saskia Niño de Rivera
The Mexican prison system allows pregnant women to keep their children in prison from birth until they are six years old. But incarceration is not a favorable environment for the child’s physical and emotional development, since they have no proper education or playground access.
With that in mind, Saskia Niño de Rivera created the program Sowing Links, Harvesting Peace, as part of her NGO Reinserta, which helps these women learn the best parenting practices and develop loving and healthy relationships with their children through workshops and follow-up programs. In 2018 alone, the lives of 50 Mexican infants were improved.
This and other tasks, such as the reintegration of adolescents leaving correctional centers, have earned Saskia the recognition of Women Forum 2018 as one of the 16 Mexican women who are transforming their country.
Alejandra Sepúlveda Peñaranda
Women head around 42% of households in Chile, and three-quarters of them are single-parent, according to ComunidadMujer. This Chilean organization promotes women’s rights and the creation of public and corporate policies to generate greater equality between men and women.
Alejandra Sepúlveda Peñaranda has directed this organization since 2010. Furthermore, she works in other initiatives, such as the Commission of Women and Gender Equality, which identifies gender gaps in all school levels and proposes short, middle, and long term actions to correct and prevent them.
Ana Catalina Buitrago Murcia
According to the National Administrative Department of Statistics, Colombia has around 48.2 million inhabitants, and 51% are women. Despite efforts to promote equality and female empowerment, there are still disparities to be reduced.
For this reason, Ana Catalina Buitrago Murcia, together with a group of other women, created the Lunaria Fund, an organization dedicated to mobilizing resources to meet women’s needs in different areas: eradication of violence, defense of territories, reproductive rights, and LGBTIQ + inclusion. In 2019, they supported 136 causes from 38 municipalities in Colombia, based on donations from companies and citizens.
For the past 12 years, she has worked in different organizations, projects, and programs addressing the needs of women and children affected by armed conflict, eradicating violence against women, and psychosocial attention with a gender perspective.
Yes, We Can!
Betting on female inclusion and equality in all social and business spheres will allow Latin America’s economies to grow. The World Bank estimates that labor productivity in Latin America and the Caribbean could rise 25% if the obstacles that stop women’s potential are unblocked.
One of the 2030 Agenda goals for Sustainable Development of the United Nations is the commitment to gender equality and economic prosperity to empower girls and women, allowing more countries to promote these policies.
Facilitating access to small business loans for women is a definite step towards reducing the gender gap and enabling business growth. For more resources and information on small business loans for women and other financial aid to minorities, sign up to Camino Financial’s newsletter. This fintech helps business owners reach their potential and stands to their motto: “No Business Left Behind.”