By: Diana Bello Aristizábal
DORAL, FL – According to UN Women, women contribute significantly to the world’s economies, whether as entrepreneurs, employees, unpaid workers or leaders in different sectors. In spite of this, nowadays many suffer from discrimination, have little possibilities of rising into leadership positions or do not receive an economic compensation commensurate with their abilities or training.
A proof of this reality is, for example, the wage gap that exists between men and women and the low participation of women in politics. According to the same organization, in most countries, women’s salaries represent between 70 and 90 percent of men’s, and in 2017 women represented less than 10 percent of the total parliament in 32 states of the world.
For this reason, now that International Women’s Day is approaching, to be celebrated on March 8, it is time to analyze the current role of women in business and the shared responsibility that both women and the organizations have on this matter.
To start, it must be clarified that although there are still challenges pending, not everything is about inequality or discrimination, because women have walked a long way that, little by little, is changing their role in society.
“100 years ago nobody thought that there would be women present in the Congress, but today there is a 30 percent of female participation in the congresses worldwide,” explains María Gabriela Hoch, author of the book ‘Diario De Una Mujer Vital’.
Thanks to how much the world has evolved on this issue, today we have several references at the national and local level. In the United States, a historic victory was reached last year when a total of 277 women ran for the House of Representatives and the Senate elections, and 113 of them were elected.
In those elections, the Hispanic population marked a milestone when were elected Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who at 29 years old became the youngest congresswoman in the history of the United States; Verónica Escobar and Sylvia García, both the first Hispanic women to represent Texas in Congress, and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, of Ecuadorian origin, and who obtained more than 50 percent of votes in Florida.
Doral has also evolved alongside with the country, because today we have the Vice Mayor Claudia Mariaca, who last year won the Public Service Award granted by the South Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (SFLHCC) for her contribution to the city, and Councilwoman Christi Fraga, who in November 2012 became the youngest person in the city’s history to hold a seat at the City Council.
On this list are also Digna Cabral, who last year was elected to hold seat 4 in the Council and the current State Representative, Ana María Rodríguez, who was a Doral Councilwoman between 2010 and 2018 and this year received a recognition of ‘In the Company of Women Awards’ in the ‘Government and Laws’ category.
Breaking down walls
Given the good news that has arisen in recent years about female leadership, it is essential to continue moving forward, because there is still much to be done to break down the walls that separate women from working life.
Experts inquired believe that the problem lies in the society’s prevailing mentality. “Today a woman leaves a work meeting to pick up her children, and many think that she lacks commitment, whereas if the same situation happens to a male, many not only do not criticize him but praise his commitment as a father,” says María Gabriela Hoch, also founder and president of MGM Woman’s Empowerment and We evolution.
This mass mentality must be switched if we want to create growth spaces in which both the woman’s and the man’s perspective are taken into account. Let’s not forget that man are equally important within the household to raise happy and healthy families.
But, according to Hoch, this mentality is also extended to single women with no children, who instead of struggling between family and work, often do between personal care and hobbies and work life. “It seems like women always have to prove their worth,” adds Hoch.
For Carla Sánchez, international speaker, and Coach, the first task that women have to change that reality is to start breaking down their own beliefs.
“Beliefs can motivate you or block you preventing you from fulfilling your purposes. We must first identify which of those beliefs are limiting and which are enhancers, the first ones can be eliminated by constantly checking our thoughts, and the second ones should be used in our favor,” says Carla.
On the other hand, it is essential to have a balanced life. To do so, Carla advises to identify what one wants to achieve in life, create a roadmap to meet personal goals and organize a schedule. “I always recommend my clients to take 15 minutes of the day, after putting their children to sleep, to write down how they felt that day, what tools helped them and how to create a different result the next day,” she adds.
But in addition to the prevailing mentality and multifaceted nature of today’s women, for Belinda León, who has a Doctorate in education, was a candidate for City Council and is the owner of Premiere Educational Consulting, another barrier that women face today is they sometimes choose careers that do not necessarily pay high wages. “Statistically, the first job that a woman lands is not well paid,” says Belinda.
Given this, according to the businesswoman, it is essential that universities include courses aimed at preparing them for the corporate world and in which they can learn, for example, how to negotiate wage or how to do a job interview.
To reduce this gap, she recommends companies to analyze the salaries they are offering to their women employees with the purpose of determining if the pay is fair and in line with their skills. Also, she suggests providing training whenever it is necessary to help them perform better at work.
Passion, mentoring and networking
Given that now more than ever there are so many women interested in impacting the business world, it is necessary to know what are the ingredients that can make a difference. The first one is passion referring to an internal motivation that makes someone believe in what he or she is doing.
Experts agree that there must be a much higher motivation than merely wanting to make money, especially when deciding to start a business. “Passion is key to launch any product or service because you are going to talk, breathe and eat about that 24 hours a day,” explains Belinda León.
Annia Zavala, president and founder of Latina Pro and corporate Vice President of New York Life, knows all about passion. She created Latina Pro two years ago with the intention of providing a space of personal and professional development for women. In her first events, only a couple of people attended, and now it has a network of more than 400 women.
“You have to be very honest with yourself about how much time you are willing to invest in the activity you chose, and surround yourself with people who are in your same frequency and help you grow,” she explains.
According to Carla Sánchez, that passion can take a clearer direction when the ‘why’ of the business is defined, as she is convinced that this is the first question any entrepreneur should ask herself.
“If there is nothing that moves you from the innermost part of your being to survive the path of entrepreneurship, it will be tough to reach success, because you will most likely leave the business in the first setback,” she explains.
Another ingredient is mentoring, which refers to seeking references for success in the field of interest. “If I have to launch my company and someone explains to me everything he or she did to achieve something similar to what I want, I can save myself 10 or 15 years of trial and error,” says María Gabriela.
Annia Zavala has a similar opinion. She believes that her growth mostly is due to the fact that she has sought the advice of experts in different areas to whom she has always listened with a receptive mind.
In Miami, there are many ways to find mentors in the area of interest. One of them is through the Global Mentoring Walk, an event created by ‘Vital Voices Miami and We Evolution’ that will take place on March 9, and in which all participants can share experiences with other professionals.
Another tool similar to mentoring is female networking that in recent years has become essential to growing in the business world. “We do not have the habit of networking incorporated into our lives, although it’s as easy as going to play golf or attend a soccer match and connect with other people there,” explains María Gabriela.
There are even formally established groups and places that facilitate networking. In Doral, for example, there is the ‘Círculo de Mujeres Empresarias y Profesionales,’ the Doral Chamber of Commerce, which organizes different networking events, and Miami-Dade County Public Schools that offer different pieces of training throughout the year to connect with other businesswomen.