Gender Bias and the Challenges of Becoming a Female Entrepreneur

“Feeling scared about asking for financial help and concerned about not getting clients” is how Sofia Cruz del Rio described her first days after starting her own business, Tekiti, in Mexico.

After seven challenging years, Tekiti has grown into a company that promotes Mexican culture in the hotel industry while supporting Mexican artisans who produce handmade products including tableware and souvenirs.

When Sofia started, she struggled to find financial support. “I did not have the right profile to receive a bank loan because my company was small and did not have a history on record,” she shared with Pro Mujer.

According to a study by the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University, “most funding that women entrepreneurs in Mexico obtain comes from personal savings (61%), while a minority comes from family loans (22%), shareholder capital (14%), and bank loans (3%).”

Dealing with implicit bias is another barrier that women often face when accessing financial support to start or grow their businesses. The study also shows that “sociocultural prejudices around women, machismo, and discrimination in lending practices, as well as a lack of self-belief and a fear of failure” are major barriers for women.

When approaching investors Sofia quickly found herself defending the risks she took as an entrepreneur to build her company. Male entrepreneurs, on the other hand, are often touted for their risk-taking. Today, her confidence has resulted in a growing business that has generated jobs and income for hundreds of other entrepreneurs.

Sofia’s story reminds us of the importance of strengthening gender lens investing to ensure women have access to financial services that understand their needs.

Viwala is a platform for investing in Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) led by women or that principally serve women and girls. It provides revenue-based loans to companies like Tekiti that either prioritize implementing gender strategies, create products or services that positively impact women and girls, or are led by women.

“You must have perseverance,” Sofia shared with Pro Mujer. Watch the following video to learn more about her experience as an entrepreneur.