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Boosting Women's Entrepreneurship In Mexico And Latin America

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As a volunteer, I've had the opportunity to visit the most remote places of my country. In México, extraordinary wealth and heart-breaking poverty exist side by side. It is a land of harsh contradictions -- skyscrapers and wood houses, modern-day Internet and illiteracy.

Years ago, when I used to think about this, I always asked myself; with all our diverse natural resources and hard-working labor force, why are we in this situation?

The answer: Innovation.

According to the Geneva-based United Nations World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), in 2015 all Latin American countries filed 1,216 patent applications, meanwhile Israel filed 1,698. This comparison left me speechless. How is it possible that a country so small is patenting so much more than all the Latin American countries together?

I like to think that the answer is the fact that our global economy is no longer fundamentally based on natural resources, but on knowledge. It is not a coincidence that countries with more economic growth, like South Korea, are the ones producing and patenting more scientific and technological innovations. Creative and well-educated minds are now worth more than thousands of primary resources.

So technically, in order for innovation and economic growth to happen, we have to educate our students and workers, giving them the best opportunities to imagine, transform, and create. But how is this going to be possible if half of the population is often not considered, or does not have the same rights and opportunities?

Yes, that half I am referring to are women.

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As the Mexican delegate at the 2016 G(irls)20 Summit, I believe the most important barriers women face when it comes to innovation and entrepreneurship are:

1. Education for Innovation: Breaking the standards in Science and Engineering.

According to the Regional Office for Science in Latin America and the Caribbean of the UNESCO, the number of women in this region studying careers related to sciences and engineering has reduced from 25 per cent in 1994 to 15 per cent in 2012. This clearly shows that Latin American women are underrepresented in these areas. The cultural and institutional barriers need to be urgently attended to and resolved.

G20 Leaders could encourage women's participation in science and technology through the creation of more public policies that can help to retain and recruit women in these areas of industry. Also, providing micro-credits and financial incentives for women that want to start a business, or to conduct a study related to technology.

2. Creating a women's innovation culture:

Break those cultural barriers that are still very popular, like defining women only as "Housewives". These stereotypes only prove that women are still not accepted or trusted as innovators or entrepreneurs.

We have to slowly introduce factors that allow us to live in a culture that encourages us to be creative and enthusiastic, where our ideas can be nurtured and transformed into great inventions, which can glorify female entrepreneurs the same as men.

3. Finance and Investment Capital:

Accessing appropriate financing is one of the biggest challenges that female entrepreneurs face. We need to explore new models of impact investing focused on women's businesses such as assessment and specific segmented funding tracks for supporting businesses in the micro enterprise category.

If we are able to boost innovation and entrepreneurship among women, we will have a better shot at closing the employment participation and wage gap between women and men, which could ultimately increase their income globally by up to 76 percent.

By Clarissa de la Vega Chavoya, delegate representing Mexico at the 2016 G(irls)20 Summit in Beijing, China.

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