WOMEN’S FORUM SPECIAL REPORTS
"Women in the Economy: Looking for New Business Models"
Meet with Lourdes Arreola, an amazing social entrepreneur profile from the Cartier Women's Initiative Awards
Joining forces with the Women’s Forum, INSEAD and McKinsey & Company, Cartier created in 2006 the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards, an annual international business plan competition to accompany and guide initiatives by women entrepreneurs. Each year, six Laureates are awarded in six regional categories: Latin America, North America, Europe, Sub-Saharan Africa, Middle East & North Africa and Asia-Pacific.
This year, for the 9th edition of the initiative, a great amount of applications were received: over 1700 from more than 100 countries. These figures demonstrate the growing worldwide character of the Cartier Women's Initiative Awards. It also shows the increasing number of women who are starting their own business in different countries.
Throughout the years, the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards has evolved with socio-economic trends. In 2011, a sixth regional category for Middle East and North Africa was created to respond to the growing number of women entrepreneurs in this region. Since its inception, the initiative has supported over 140 promising female business-owners and recognized 51 Laureate coming from a wide range of sectors, from fashion to health and environmental projects, from travel services to management and advisory services, from the food industry to the financial industry. All of the projects supported have in common a strong social impact on the society or the environment. Recently there has been a growing number of applications for green businesses which reflects the global market trend.
Finalist 2013 for Latin America, MEXICO
Figures from INEGI , Mexico’s National Institute of Statistics and Geography, show that 5.1% of the population, or approximately 5.6 million people, have disabilities. Lourdes Arreola, a former electronics engineer and telecommunications manager, has created a platform to help businesses include disabled people in the workplace: Linkenium.
Linkenium consults on processes to welcome disabled workers of all kinds – from physical to visual or intellectual. It also opens networks to the appropriate associations for further guidance if required. It markets itself as a professional platform, the sole interface a business seeking to adapt to disabilities needs. ‘Becoming a disability-friendly organisation gives stronger leadership, greater teamwork. People with disabilities are not just potential employees. They are customers and providers too,’ she remarks. ‘Working with them gives a business better understanding of their needs and can lead to product innovation.’
Before setting up Linkenium, Lourdes managed a large team in a telecommunications firm and volunteered with disabled people in her free time. ‘I gave swimming lessons to people with Down’s Syndrome and more recently I joined a group taking blind people on tandem bicycle rides. It taught me just how much we can learn from them.’ Here she met Gloria Rodriguez, who gradually lost her sight as an adult. Before long, Lourdes offered her a job as Linkenium’s chief consultant. ‘People with disabilities need employment, just like everyone else. They are real social and economic actors’ Clearly, Lourdes means business.
Interview with Lourdes Arreola
Women's Forum: From the beginning of your work experience, have you noticed a change of the global economy?
Lourdes Arreola: "Yes I have seen many things changing around the global economy but, I still find that there is an important gap to fill in order to really ensure equal opportunities for all and a fair distribution of the wealth in our world."
Women's Forum: Why do you work in the social business?
Lourdes Arreola: "I believe that economy and education are key factors to promote the development of our society this is why we need to build businesses that contribute to social cohesion, better employment conditions and the reduction of inequalities. For me, social business are based on principles of service to members of the community, individuals participation, empowerment and, individual and collective responsibility, so I see them as an key component that will allow our society to develop in a positive way for all."
Women's Forum: Do you think social economy might be an opportunity for women entrepreneurs?
Lourdes Arreola: "Yes I definitely believe it. Women's empowerment allow them to change not only their own economic status, but also their communities and countries in which they live."
Women's Forum: Could you tell us an anecdote about you as business woman working in the social economy?
Lourdes Arreola: "When I left my career in telecommunications to found a social business, was a hard time for my family. They were worry about my future and how I will pay for my bills. They thought that I will have to go back to a job in the private sector later.
A few months ago we have celebrated Linkenium's (my company) anniversary and it was so rewarding to listen how proud my sister is of the goals that we have achieved while building a culture of inclusion in our country as well as to listen how happy the people with and without disabilities are collaborating in Linkenium, like Nancy who is Bruno's mom (a blind 5 years old boy) and part of our consulting team. She is happy to contribute with her work to build an inclusive world for her son and to have a flexible schedule at work that allow her to take better care of her two sons."
The Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards, an international business plan competition created in 2006 by Cartier, the Women's Forum, McKinsey & Company and INSEAD business school, supports and encourages projects by women entrepreneurs.
The Rising Talents initiative aims to distinguish highly talented young women under the age of 40 who are on their way to becoming influential figures in our economies and societies. This initiative is a commitment to promote women leaders and bring the vision of rising generations to the Women’s Forum.