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INCAE and Vital Voices hold forum aimed at empowering women entrepreneurs in order to foster development and wealth

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thumb vital voice"In 83 economies around the world, 200 million women are starting a new venture," said Babson College Vice-Provost of Global Entrepreneurial Leadership, Candida Brush, who called for participation of women in enterprises to be seen as a key factor of value creation in society.

Professor Brush was one of the speakers at the III Euro-American Conference of Women Leaders 2017: Women Entrepreneurs as Development and Wealth Generators (CEAML 2017), held by INCAE´s Center for Collaborative and Women's Leadership (CLCM) and Vital Voices Costa Rica on February 2nd in San José. The event brought together more than 300 men and women from public and private organizations, allowing them to exchange experiences and ideas on women entrepreneurs.

The forum was attended by important speakers including Sandra Cauffman, deputy director of NASA Earth Science Division; scientist Miranda Wang, developer of the plastic disintegrating bacteria and founder / CEO of BioCellection Inc.; and the Senior Director of the World Bank's Trade and Competitiveness Global Practice Anabel González, among others.

The speakers lectured on key factors to engage in entrepreneurial ventures in technology and the private and public sectors, as well as on the development of corporate and independent entrepreneurship. They dealt with the requirements to reach that goal, based on their experiences and data from studies carried out on the importance of female entrepreneurship in the region.

"Women need more training in business, entrepreneurship, and learning to appreciate more the numbers, to start investing in high value-added sectors, achieve greater diversity in senior management, have more specialized programs intended for women, and obtain more funding through programs and scholarships," said Camelia Ilie, INCAE's Dean of Executive Education and Chair of the Center for Collaborative and Women's Leadership. She emphasized that countries with lower GDP per capita have been shown to benefit even more from the existence of female enterprises. Given this scenario, Dr. Ilie thinks it is essential to proactively encourage female entrepreneurship in Central America.

With data about entrepreneurship around the world Dr. Ilie showed it results in jobs, innovation, competitiveness, economic development, philanthropy, and social impact. As an example, she cited the influence of Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women Initiative, which demonstrated that after that program women reinvested 90% of every dollar earned in education, health, and nutrition, versus 40% in the case of men.

However, there are still personal and environmental barriers that need to be overcome in order to achieve higher levels of female entrepreneurship. CLCM Research Director Susan Clancy showed how gender is not relevant among successful entrepreneurs' personality traits. Rather, what counts is being extrovert, open to experience, emotionally stable, aware of issues, and able to reach agreement. Sandra Cauffman also added perseverance: "Fear of failure is common to us all; entrepreneurship is an adventure and we are going to fail. My main challenge was to prove that I am as capable as the men I have worked with," she said.

The importance of companies to strive for diversity and innovation was a major topic during the event. "We have created an inclusive environment to bring about diversity within five dimensions adding much to business ventures. These include gender, nationality, origin, generations, and different profiles," commented Xavier Vargas, president of Cargill Central America, who explained how Cargill started four years ago a new strategy for 2020 with a different vision comprising inclusion and diversity.

Alexandra Kissling, President of Vital Voices Costa Rica, highlighted how leadership mentorship carried out by Vital Voices helps women find again their strengths and make their own decisions. "We have focused on helping individuals rediscover the best version of themselves," she explained.

The forum also featured a panel with Dr. Luis Guillermo Solís, President of Costa Rica, and Dr. Roberto Artavia, President of VivaIdea and Chairman of INCAE's Board. This panel concluded that entrepreneurial ventures are more successful in environments with governmental and institutional support.

This year the topics of CEAML 2017 are part of INCAE's strategy to boost entrepreneurship in order to bring about progress. INCAE recently launched the Latin American Center for Entrepreneurs and has executive programs focused on promoting entrepreneurship such as the Emerging Leaders Program for Women and the Senior Executive Program. On the other hand, Vital Voices also conducts activities promoting women entrepreneurs generating positive change in their communities.

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