Last week I had the opportunity to speak to an amazing group of Peruvian women in Lima, Peru. The intent of this event (Empresarias en Acción 2018: DreamBuilder – Ella Exporta) sponsored by the US Embassy In Peru PromPeru and Dreambuilder in conjunction with Thunderbird for Good, was to bring together highly motivated women entrepreneurs to enable them to build networks across Peru and continue their learnings so they can grow and scale their businesses.

These women, from all over Peru, are entrepreneurs in various stages of starting their own businesses and are recent graduates of the Dreambuilder Program. Most notable, is that almost ALL of them are mothers. Yes, their reasons for starting businesses may vary, but they are all aligned in that each of them have deep and meaningful reasons for why becoming financially independent and business literate is extremely important to themselves and for their future generations.

As one of the keynote speakers, I shared our Momwarrior™ knowledge on the “Motherhood Penalty” and the “Double Burden Syndrome” as well as what is called “the stalled gender revolution” where we are seeing growing numbers of women entering traditionally male dominated work. However,  we are not seeing the same shift of men into what can be termed traditionally as female dominated work (i.e. caregiving). Globally, women take on 75% of unpaid care and household work and, in Peru, women spend almost 40 hours per week in unpaid household activities. The amount of unpaid work is often an overlooked area when it comes to addressing the challenges that many women at work often face. This is real, and affects women all over the globe. 

While Peru has indeed undergone sweeping changes in the last couple of decades and, in fact, is one of the leading countries in the number of women starting businesses (60% of all new business in Peru are started by women!), there are still many barriers to the advancement of women. 

Most poignantly, while the US and Peru are in vastly different stages of economic development, and while our political and cultural histories are nothing alike, we see that women in Peru face the same barriers as women in the US when it comes to advancement. These include: (1) Blocked economic potential (i.e. access to credit and financing) (2) Fewer legal rights (i.e. outdated laws) (3) Political Underrepresentation (4) Violence against women (5) Time spent in unpaid care work. Yes, the scope and severity may be different, but women across the world face these same barriers.

What we are seeing is a growing number of women throughout the world starting their own businesses (a 6% increase between 2016-2017). Our organizational structures here in the US are not fully set up to accommodate working mothers and this is one of the many contributing factors for why we are seeing more and more women starting businesses - they have more control to align with their needs as mothers and caregivers. We still have work to do but there is indeed growth and change happening all around us, which is also very evident by looking closely at what is happening in Peru.

If you want to learn more about these topics in detail and understand the global dynamics of women at work, I highly recommend the following research reports:

Women at Work (International Labor Union) 2016

Women Matter: Time to Accelerate (McKinley & Company) 2017

Women’s Economic participation in Peru (USAID) 2016