The Entrepreneurial Spirit of Migrant Women

Women’s participation in international migration has increased in the last decades. In the United States, women make up almost half of the immigrant population and execute a very important role in the economy and society. It is worth mentioning that the majority do not arrive as dependents accompanying their partners, but as workers with the objective of earning an income.

According to the American Community Survey 2013, there are 13.1 million female immigrant workers in the United States. This represents 7% of the total work force. Around 50.3% of women immigrant workers hail from Latin America with Mexico in first place. However, female immigrant workers are concentrated in low-salary occupations as domestic, cleaning, and caretaking employees.

However, despite this high concentration in poorly-paid jobs, female immigrants’ entrepreneurial capacity stands out. According to the 2010 census, 40% of immigrant businesses belonged to women. This figure represents 20% of female-owned businesses in general. In spite of braving vulnerable conditions and overcoming obstacles upon arriving to the United States, these women possess a strong entrepreneurial spirit. The percentage of immigrant women who start up a business is greater than that of U.S.-born women. This trend has increased in the last decade: in 2010, 9% of female immigrants owned their own businesses, compared to 6.5% of native born women. Hispanic immigrant companies have proved to be a significant source of employment for communities, and they notably contribute to the GDP growth.

In addition to economic advantages, owning a business in the United States promotes positive changes in domestic gender relations. Women become empowered since they generate an income, are independent, and actively participate in their communities. Increased economic opportunities in the host country can allow for more equal negotiating processes between women and men. Women are more equipped to enforce their rights and not remain silent when these rights are violated.

On the way to the United States in search of a better life, women face innumerable dangers. Regrettably, they often continue to be victims of abuse and discrimination upon their arrival. A large percentage of them do not have legal documentation, and this situation renders them more vulnerable to exploitation in the workplace. They do not have access to medical care or other social security benefits, and their labor rights are constantly violated. Human trafficking is a common violation that affects women and children on a larger scale. Furthermore, undocumented women run the risk of losing their U.S.-born children if these women are detained and deported.

Women are key in combatting poverty and promoting social development. Immigrant women of Hispanic origin in the United States are a constant source of economic vitality that contribute to the growth of their communities of origin and destination. They are heads of households, workers, tax payers, and consumers. They are also potential entrepreneurs with the capacity to generate employment and increase their incomes to improve their own and their families’ quality of life. For this reason, it is important to eradicate the barriers that hinder the full development of migrant women. Thousands of women risk their lives and arrive in the United States in search of a dream; we should support them so that they may achieve it.

Angélica Fuentes, Founder Equal Invest

Angélica Fuentes is a Latin American businesswoman and impact investor, who has been recognized by Forbes Magazine as one of Mexico’s most influential women.

Ms. Fuentes was appointed CEO of Grupo Imperial in 1992 and quickly positioned the company as a top player in Northern Mexico’s energy sector. Under her leadership, Grupo Imperial’s annual growth rate increased from 5% in 1992 to 9.5% in 2005. Ms. Fuentes served as President of the Business Energy Network of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Agreement (APEC) from 2002 to 2004, and as President of the Mexican Natural Gas Association from 1996 to 2000. From 2007 to 2015, she served as CEO of Grupo Omnilife-Angelissima-Chivas. Under her leadership, the company became one of the top 100 corporations in Mexico.

Throughout her career, Ms. Fuentes has dedicated significant time and resources to NGOs, international organizations and professional groups that support the cause of women. She participated in the World Economic Forum’s Gender Parity Programme, and led the Mexican Gender Parity Taskforce. She currently serves on Secretary Clinton’s International Council on Women’s Business Leadership; is member of the Private Sector Leadership Advisory Council of UN Women; is a Global Advocate for the Girl Up Campaign, a United Nations Foundation program; co-chairs the PVBLIC LATAM regional platform; is member of the Latin American Program Advisory Board of the Woodrow Wilson International Center; and is member of the Global Dignity’s International Council of Advisors.

Her work in this field has been recognized by numerous honors and awards. In 2015, UN Women gave her the Women’s Empowerment Principles CEO Leadership Award; she was the first female CEO to receive this award for championing gender equality in the private sector. In 2016, PVBLIC Foundation, Ismael Cala Foundation, and the United Nations gave her the award for Latin Woman Empowerment. In 2017, she received the Corporate Social Responsibility Award from The Maestro Cares Foundation.

Gender equality, women empowerment and the eradication of poverty have always been a priority in all her endeavors. In 2014, she established the Angelica Fuentes Foundation. In 2016, she founded A Complete and The Imperative Fund. In 2017, she founded Equal Invest, The Beauty Station and A Complete Journey.

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