On Friday the 4th of March, the IE Entrepreneurship Club hosted a panel alongside the IE Women in Business Club in honor of the 8th of March: International Women’s Day. Four speakers were invited: Rachida Justo (Associate Professor IE), Rana Raouf Farag (Co-Founder, Senior Product Manager), Alexia de la Morena (CEO, Marketing Director), and Sara Powell (Chief Operating Officer, Strategy).
The speakers shared the hardships and challenges they faced because of their gender when entering a man-dominated sector, such as entrepreneurship. They also shared insights into the differences between working in a women-dominated environment and a man-dominated one.
Rashida started the discussion with a roundup of her research and its implications for tomorrow’s leaders. In her studies, she discovered that women are less likely than men to start a business, begin in a new sector, or be self-employed. Additionally, female-led ventures are financed at lower levels and by different means. Overall, only 30% of entrepreneurs are women.
She explained that these poor results are rooted in the discouragement of women. Stereotypes and gender roles are still present in today’s society and form a big part of entrepreneurial culture. This makes women more likely to quit their business entrepreneur if they started one in the first place.
She also found an interesting experiment by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology where women proved to perform better in a women-dominated environment. This helped demonstrate that the typical stereotype for women to perform worse than men in academics is not true. The reality is that women are as or more likely than men to achieve; the problem relies on the culture of discouragement.
One key thing that Justo advises women is to always keep in mind that if they fail, they should take the feedback but not do too much introspection. Failure is normal and often expected in entrepreneurship, but that does not mean that one should be discouraged from pursuing their passion.
Rana, a woman in STEM, explains that her mission is to inspire more women to become active in the entrepreneurship sector. She seeks to inspire other women to keep trying and get involved in AI, which is currently a man-dominated industry. She says that in her experience, vocation and purpose are essential for women to build their business model. She also finds that working with women is more comfortable and efficient than with men due to their wide acceptance of emotion and empathy.
Alexia brought a perspective from neuropsychology. She realized that we live in a society where women are not provided with the best options to succeed. Contrary to common stereotypes, she has found that women (even though they form a small part of the sector) are more successful than men. She also discovered that in women-dominated environments (matriarchal), there are better and healthier ideas to improve the business. Additionally, in these workplaces, employees are generally treated better, enhancing their work quality.
Just like Rashida, Alexia highlights the importance of the culture surrounding women and how they should be encouraged to partake in entrepreneurship. Along with this, she has found that the way of raising a girl will impact her later development in life and entrepreneurship. Thus, if she is encouraged by her family and support system, she will be more likely to embark on entrepreneurship.
Lastly, Sara Powell spoke about her experience working in social entrepreneurship. She has built platforms and spaces to allow women to become freelance entrepreneurs, especially in India, where she has focused her business. She talked about the hardships that women face there, given that they are expected to take care of the house and children. Therefore, to meet their needs, Sara allows them to work freelance to leave an impact in their community.
The speakers left us with a great piece of advice: for women to believe in themselves and be firm in their convictions, to keep trying even after failure, and to have a strong support system around them, formed by people who understand what being an entrepreneur feels like!
Many thanks to the Entrepreneurship Club and the Women in Business Club for giving us the opportunity of listening to such powerful, intelligent, inspiring, and successful women!