Category Archives: Latin America and the Caribbean

Newsflash: Businesswomen Lead in Nicaragua

Mesa presidium

The draft Nicaraguan Businesswomen Agenda was presented during REN’s International Women’s Day forum on March 6, 2015. Speakers included Nicaraguan Minister of Industry and Commerce Orlando Solórzano and U.S. Ambassador to Nicaragua Phyllis Powers.

Empowered Businesswomen.” “Businesswomen Influence the Destinies of Other Women.” These two headlines ran in the March 7, 2015 editions of Nicaragua’s two leading newspapers, La Prensa and El Nuevo Diario.

It is not unusual for Nicaraguan media to publish articles related to women’s empowerment on International Women’s Day. Women are prominent in the Nicaraguan political sphere, thanks in part to gender quotas encompassed in the Gender Equality Law and the revised Electoral Law. Nicaragua now ranks 11th in the world in the proportion of women in parliament, 40 percent – far above most other Latin American countries (and the United States, with 18 percent). International Women’s Day provides an opportunity to highlight these advances.

What’s unusual in the case of the two articles linked above is the inclusion of one word: “Businesswomen.” Here is why.

Unfortunately the trend towards greater participation of women in the political sphere has been slow to spread to private sector organizations, which are key actors in advocating for policies that improve the business climate. A 2014 review conducted by the Network of Nicaraguan Businesswomen (REN) of the 19 business organizations that form the umbrella private sector association the Superior Council for Private Enterprise (COSEP) found that an average of 16 percent of board members are women. This is the same figure found by a similar study by the International Labor Organization in 2009.

Private sector organizations rarely incentivize women’s participation or provide equal access to information that can lead them to access leadership positions. As a result, there are very few private sector leaders promoting the specific interests and needs of women entrepreneurs in a substantial way.

On top of that, organizations of women entrepreneurs have historically operated based on incipient alliances and limited coordination with one another, resulting in disperse efforts to advocate for public policies that can improve the business environment for women entrepreneurs.

If this is the reality, are La Prensa and El Nuevo Diario’s articles simply fluff pieces scheduled to coincide with International Women’s Day?

Read More…

How Mentorships Support Women Entrepreneurs

kids-book

Children’s book and toys that were developed as a result of Association of Business Women in Serbia’s mentorship program.

 

Fear of failure. Lack of confidence. Aversion to risk. These are some of the biggest hurdles that one faces when starting a business. Around the world, these challenges are often far more pronounced for women entrepreneurs. The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor 2012 Women’s Report noted that one of the top reasons why there are significantly fewer female entrepreneurs than male entrepreneurs is because women simply believe they are incapable of launching their own businesses.

What can be done to reverse such beliefs?

One answer is fostering a network among women in business through mentorships.

The Association of Business Women in Serbia (ABW) and Red de Empresarias de Nicaragua (REN) both saw a pattern in their countries: women are reluctant to start businesses because they lack role models and the right skillsets to pursue entrepreneurship. To fill this gap, CIPE is supporting both organizations to empower and support aspiring or new women entrepreneurs in Serbia and Nicaragua.

Read More…

Entrepreneurship and Women’s Economic Empowerment in Ecuador

860

Fellows participating in the Emprendedores Ecuatorianos (Ecuadorian Entrepreneurs) program work on the details of their business plans at session in November 2014.

Ecuador, the land of the eternal spring, the Middle of the World, and the Galapagos Islands, is also a land where nearly 26 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. Seven of every ten people are employed informally — meaning they lack official contracts and may not be subject to worker protections — and over half are employed by businesses that are not legally registered. The entrepreneurial context in Ecuador is characterized by young entrepreneurs (73 percent are younger than 44 years old) with a variety of motivations: increasing their income, seeking independence, necessity, among others.

As of 2010, Ecuadorian women surpassed men in number of entrepreneurs (54 versus 46 percent). Entrepreneurship has long been recognized as a key source of empowerment and economic independence for women around the world, and particularly in Latin America.

The Emprendedores Ecuatorianos program, organized by CIPE partner the Ecuadorian Institute of Political Economy (IEEP), works to foster democratically and free-market minded entrepreneurs from the rural areas of Ecuador. To date, 45 women have completed the Emprendedores Ecuatorianos program. One of the 2013 graduates, Brenda Sumba, shared some of her thoughts on women as entrepreneurs.

Read More…

Populism and the Internet in Latin America

The rapid growth of the Internet in Latin America between 2001 and 2008. Today 57% of South Americans use the Internet. (Charts: ZookNIC)

The rapid growth of the Internet in Latin America between 2001 and 2008. As of 2014 57% of South Americans are online. (Charts: ZookNIC)

By William Vogt

Since the rise and fall of the Arab Spring, debate has raged in the fields intersecting communications, technology, and international affairs: will Internet growth be a liberalizing influence that will create stable, prosperous democracies?

So far, this answer appears to be a qualified “no.” Connected and educated youths have not created the groundswell necessary for reform in many politically unstable countries. On the other hand, investments in information communications technologies (ICTs) have greatly improved local economies in many developing countries and hold promise in exposing and rooting out corruption.

In this last point, fighting corruption, the rise of the Internet as a social and economic force has created perplexing political trends. Increased Internet penetration does reduce at least one key aspect of corruption affecting free market interactions: barriers to market entry (for producers and consumers) due to opaque regulations and powerful oligarchies. In fact, studies have shown that merely the act of searching broad terms like “corruption” on an online search engine has significant impacts on the ability of the state to engage in corrupt, anti-competitive practices like demanding bribes from businesses.

This trend, however, does not hold globally and there is one part of the world that has created a particularly worrying balance between the forms of democracy and what is functionally a system of corruption: Latin America. Over its long history this region has developed a unique political culture with a prominent role for the ideology frequently described today as “populism.”

Read More…

Overcoming Cultural Barriers to Entrepreneurship: What Can Latin America Learn from Nordic Countries?

The Nordic concept of Janteloven mirrors some cultural attitudes in Latin America -- yet the Nordic countries have still managed to build strong entrepreneurial ecosystems.

The Nordic concept of Janteloven mirrors some cultural attitudes in Latin America — yet the Nordic countries have still managed to build strong entrepreneurial ecosystems.

Entrepreneurs continue to face strong cultural challenges in Latin America. Risk aversion is particularly common in the region, and thus many youth lack the confidence to start their own businesses for fear of failure and the associated consequences. Would-be women entrepreneurs often must deal with machismo, or male dominance, in economic matters.

Additionally, Latin American cultures tend to be very community-oriented, and it is a common belief throughout much of the region that entrepreneurs are in business to make money only for themselves and are thus “abandoning” their communities, which has cast a negative light upon the concept of entrepreneurship. Moreover, strong pressures to conform to social class expectations often discourage young people from trying to improve their lives through entrepreneurship.

Latin America is not the only region in which cultural factors have hampered the development of entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs still face sizable cultural obstacles even in regions where entrepreneurship has been able to flourish. This is especially true in the Nordic countries: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden.

As someone who has straddled the Latin American-Nordic cultural divide his whole life, I have witnessed firsthand that while Latin American and Nordic cultures are very different in a variety of ways (just try making small talk while waiting for a bus in Copenhagen or foregoing cheek kisses upon meeting people in San Juan), in both cultures there are norms that encourage social conformity while stifling individualism. While these rules are unwritten and thus are not immediately apparent to outsiders, the social consequences of going against these norms can be severe.

Read More…

Realizing OGP Objectives

OGP_logo_-_print_layers

The Open Government Partnership has an ambitious agenda to advance transparency and accountability in government, which it seeks to advance through voluntary commitments, citizen engagement, and progress monitoring reports. It has garnered many adherents since it was launched by eight countries in 2011, and its members have already implemented numerous practical reforms.

At the OGP Americas Regional Meeting in Costa Rica, we had the opportunity to take stock of accomplishments and learn from practitioners about what makes the partnership work and how to sustain it. I was struck by the scale of the effort in several countries despite their resource constraints, as well as the concerns voiced by civil society for the integrity of overall reform.

Read More…

When Reality Doesn’t Match the Ranking: Nicaragua’s Gender Gap

global-gender-gap

“Everybody loves a ranking,” or so the saying goes. In sports I tend to agree. If you’re not currently following the College Football Playoff rankings (which, since this blog is for a global audience, I imagine a majority of readers are not), you are missing out on something truly exciting. Rankings and indexes seek to be as objective as possible using the information available. With the CFP and other sports rankings, where a significant amount of objective comparison is not possible, there is a lot of room for debate. And that can be part of the fun.

But when it comes to indexes and rankings of more serious themes with real world consequences, they shouldn’t be fun… or funny. During a recent weeklong trip to Nicaragua, the running joke was that the country is the 6th most gender equal country in the world according to the 2014 Global Gender Gap report issued by the World Economic Forum. Spend a day in the shoes of a Nicaraguan woman and you’ll quickly understand why the country’s ranking in this report is not something to be celebrated.

Read More…