On October 8th, 2010, Chilean President, Sebastian Piñera came face-to-face with the largest gathering of Chilean businesswomen and female entrepreneurs in the eight years Mujeres Empresarias (Businesswomen) has been producing conventions. Paige, the 3rd entrepreneur to arrive to Start-Up Chile, was able to attend the event and promote her project, Tripeezy, while learning about women in Chilean business, and their growing position in the nation’s workforce.
Donned Mujeres al Timón (Women at the Helm), the forum was opened by ICARE’s President Jorge Awad who, in his commencement speech, mentioned the importance of the role of women in the workplace, as well as Chile being a “fertile ground for female entrepreneurs.” He lauded the fact that there are numerous successful, young, Chilean businesswomen and the healthy boost they provide, both economically and socially, to the nation’s business base.
The mic was then passed to Chilean President Sebastián Piñera who, himself, is a vastly developed businessman having graduated from Harvard as a Fulbright scholar who eventually became a partial owner of LAN Airlines, full owner of the Chilevisión TV channel, and partial owner of the famed Chilean soccer team, Colo-Colo. His nearly $1 billion wealth was amassed by introducing credit cards to Chile and by strategically investing in various companies such as Scandinavian Airlines, Quiñenco, Enersis, and Soquimich.
Initiating the speech by applauding the resolute women behind the 33 trapped miners lead him into a discourse of nearly two hours covering topics from salary disparities to flexible labor options. He weaved various notions such as the importance of the absolute rejection of female discrimination, recognizing and celebrating gender differences, and eliminating all forms of sexism in the workplace throughout his speech, all with weighted emphasis.
Clearly inspired by his service- and family-oriented wife, Cecilia Morel, President Piñera explicitly delineated the steps he will take during his presidency to foster gender equality, open doors for women in business, and to increase the national quality of life. A pillar of this plan is the “creation of 1 million new jobs, of which 60% will be destined for women” which will be complimented by expanded “workplace flexibility,” and improved “maternity support” in terms of various benefits and options that will await a businesswoman before and after childbirth.
The speech was then dissected by three prominent Chilean businesswomen including Marcela Esquivel, HR Manager of Coca-Cola Chile, Paula Escobar, Magazine Editor of Empresas El Mercurio, and Patricia Sanzana, an entrepreneur from the Lakes Region in the south of Chile. They prompted the Q&A session by asking the President about what will happen if businesses aren’t on on the same page with work flexibility, and asking how he will invest in the regions outside of Santiago where there is a “lack of entrepreneurial spirit and weak infrastructure.”
For the nearly 500 businesswomen in attendance, it was a forum that will not quickly be forgotten and one that will presumingly serve as a precursor to the measures Piñera will take to further stimulate the economy via the entrepreneurship and unique strengths of the female workforce.
To view more pictures taken from this event, please click here.