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May 21, 2020

Bridging the Gap Between Women Entrepreneurs and Investors in Mexico

Columbia University's School of International and Public Policy







Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) explored the discrepancy between investors and women-led companies in Central America for Pro Mujer. Pro Mujer is a leading women’s non-profit development organization, headquartered in New York and committed to positively impacting the lives of their clients and their families, distributing more than $3.5 billion in investment funds to women-owned businesses. 


The opportunity for impact investment in women-led businesses is unprecedented. According to a 2016 Cornell University study, women entrepreneurs have been proven to perform better and have a higher social impact than their male counterparts. However, there remains a discrepancy between investors and women-led companies. While women entrepreneurs require capital to grow their ventures, they are receiving less funding than their male counterparts. Additionally, women and girls continue to lack access to many services and products that would improve their quality of life and gender equality. 


Deliverables and Impact

In order to enable Pro Mujer to create the conditions to unlock capital for women entrepreneurs, Columbia University students provided a published paper and presentation to Pro Mujer and its stakeholders, including the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs, that answer the following questions: 

  •  How can impact investors reach more women entrepreneurs? 

  • Are investors looking in the best places and using adequate channels to find women-owned businesses? 

  • Are there any conscious or unconscious bias when selecting “social impact” entrepreneurs? 

  • What are the specific needs for women small and growing businesses (SGBs) in terms of financial and non-financial support? 

  • What are the specific barriers businesswomen face to access capital? 

  • Are typical financial instruments adequate for women-led businesses? 

  • Are impact investors considering gender-focused business models in their impact portfolios?


"I want to thank Women Forward for the invitation to comment on these two outstanding documents that will be very useful for those of us who work on these issues in Mexico...In fact, we [FAO Mexico] are now building a proposal to develop an innovative financial mechanism for women in the milk chain. Without a doubt, this more integrative perspective will give us greater elements of analysis and will allow us to explore with the tools that you have provided more flexible instruments, potential partners adapted to the needs of women, and with possibilities of incorporating [these recommendations] as a pillar of national development. 




Lina Dolores Pohl Alfaro,

Representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization

of the United Nations (FAO) in Mexico


Project Blog - Bridging the Gap in Latin America

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Key Recommendations

The Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) team provided recommendations to leading women's non-profit development organization, Pro Mujer, on strategies to break barriers limiting women entrepreneurs from raising and accessing investment capital in Mexico and Central America at large. These strategies included developing a gender strategy geared towards facilitating capital flows to women-led businesses such as gathering gender-disaggregated data and curating inclusive marketing campaigns; encouraging business development services (BDS) providers to expand opportunities for women-led businesses by forging international partnerships and inclusive programming; and deepening the relationship between BDS providers and investors to create an investment path for women entrepreneurs. Pro Mujer is integrating these recommendations into its proposal to develop innovative financial mechanisms for women in the industry.


"We have been working for 30 years as ProMujer in Latin America empowering women [...] so we are very happy to have this research, and to share it broadly. We want to reveal the existing gaps and we find this as a very valuable tool with which to do that. With regard to the recommendations, we will be able to build on them to strengthen what we have been doing and to develop new projects and programs"


Natalia Wills

Country Representative Mexico

Pro Mujer (Client)


Distinguished Speakers for our Virtual Event:

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Lina Dolores Pohl AlfaroRepresentative of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in Mexico


Lina Dolores Pohl Alfaro was appointed as Minister of the Environment and the Natural Resource of El Salvador (MARN) in 2014. She holds her position in the administration of the President of the Republic of El Salvador, Salvador Sánchez Cerén. Prior to joining the administration, la Lcda, Ms. Pohl was the Vice-Minister of Environment and the Natural Resources.

Ms. Pohl held the position of Local Director for Central America of the Heinrich Böll Foundation, where she led the implementation of the Strategy of the Foundation as well as the coordination with the Mexican regional office. Pohl was also an active participant in the Movimiento por la Paz, el Desarme y la Libertad (MPDL) promoting various projects for supporting communities affected by the 1999 Mitch hurricanes. Between 1996 and 1999, she was in charge of the design and implementation of el Sistema de Información Gerencial in el Ministerio de Salud and of the Sistema de Información Geográfico.


Minister Pohl Alfara holds a degree in Sociology from the Universidad Centroameicana José Simeón Cañas (UCA), a Master of Social Sciences from the Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales, FLACSO, Sede México, México D.F., and a Master of Economics from the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid.


Vera Andre, Artist


Born in Rio de Janeiro on July 11, 1963 and nationalized Mexican, Vera André is a plastic artist who comes from the design discipline. Various institutions dedicated to the arts, have been the hosts of what today is her performance in different artistic expressions.

Since 1994 she has dedicated her life to painting, sculpture and engraving. She has held various exhibitions nationally and internationally, presenting her work at the Mexican Embassy in Colombia, the Cultural Center of Mexico in Miami, the Ollin Yoliztli Cultural Center, the Art Museum INBA, Casa Lamm, among others.

Both in the three-dimensional -sculptural- and in the two-dimensional -pictorial-, her approach constitutes a way of observation where manipulation towards the figurative does not contemplate a leading role. Matter, energy, time and space that in their autonomy converge at the origin of instants that give rise to creation.

Passionate about life and its mystical origin, Vera's work is a mapping and immersion of the micro and macro cosmos. A journey through the unconscious of being. Her work is a primary way to process and abound the human experience in space, in a whole, where we are all unity, we are universe.

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Mitzy Baqueiro, Specialist for Economic empowerment and Education, UN Women


Mitzy Jazmin Baqueiro Nuñez works in UN Women as Technical Specialist for Economic empowerment and Education. She holds a master’s degree in Public Administration from LSE and a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and International Relations from the Center for Research and Teaching in Economics (CIDE) at Mexico City. Prior to joining UN Women, she worked as Specialist for Poverty reduction in UNDP, where she provided technical assistance to projects for economic and social inclusion, education, gender equality among others. She also has professional experience in the public sector, she worked in the National Institute of Social Economy, where her work focused on liaising with public, private and non-governmental organizations that work for the enhanced development of social enterprises led by women.

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Rocío Cavazos, Founder & Managing Partner, Ananda Group 


Rocio Cavazos is a finance and impact investing professional with over 20 years of experience in commercial and investment banking, capital markets, social investing and microfinance. She was Head of Credit at Deutsche Bank’s Global Social Finance group in New York, investing in social enterprises in over 30 countries.


Previously Rocio was CEO of Banco Amigo, a commercial bank serving the working class and microenterprise market in Mexico.  She was CFO of Pro Mujer and she also worked for Women’s World Banking.  Rocio was Vice President at JP Morgan in the International Debt Capital Markets group in New York and worked for the Corporate Banking Division of Banamex in Mexico.


Rocio holds a BSc in Industrial and Systems Engineering from ITESM in Mexico and an MBA from Harvard Business School.


She has been vegan since 2010 and is a founding member of the Steering Committee of FaunAcción, a group that supports Mexican animal rights activists and promotes an anti-speciesist philosophy and a plant-based diet. 


Gabriela Lucas Deecke, Co-Founder & General Director, CIASPE AC


Gabriela is the co-founder and General Director of CIASPE AC, (Centro de Innovación de Agricultura Sostenible en Pequeña Escala A.C.), ONG founded in 2011 in the State of Querétaro. CIASPE AC is an organization dedicated to teaching and promoting food sovereignty and rural development in rural areas of México and Latin America.

Gabriela has an Agricultural Engineering degree from the Instituto Tecnologico de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey-Campus Queretaro as well as a Master's degree in Watershed Management from the Universidad Autonoma de Queretaro
She has 10 years of Public Service experience with the Ministry of Agriculture, Queretaro State Government. She also has a Master's degree in Rural Tourism from the University of Argentina, and is a Private Consultant for Rural Enterprises.
Gabriela is a teacher of Sustainable Agriculture at the Universidad Ceickor in Colon, Queretaro.

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Mónica DucoingCentral America & Mexico Chapter Manager, Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE)


As Chapter Manager Mónica leads the work of ANDE in Central America and Mexico: research development, program management, organization of various events, round tables, panels, workshops, etc., member services, fundraising and partnership development to deepen and expand the Chapter work. She is in the Executive Council of the Central America Impact Investing Platform (PiiC).

She has a Master’s degree in Sustainable Development and CSR from Escuela de Organización Industrial in Madrid, Spain, and a Bachelor’s degree in Communication. She has prior experience in the social sector working for an NGO that provides capacity building and jobs for underprivileged people. Previously, she worked as an Operations Manager for the Impact Hub, where she gained extensive knowledge of the social impact ecosystem in Mexico.

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Ambassador Enrique Berruga Filloy, Executive Director, Aspen Institute México


Ambassador Berruga Filloy is a Diplomat and writer. He graduated from El colegio de México with a degree in International Relations. He has a master of arts in International Economy and Theory of International Politics from the John Hopkins University in Washington D.C. He is a Permanent Representative of México United Nations.  He served a term as Secretary of Foreign Affairs for Africa, Asia-Pacific, Europe and the United Nations. Enrique was ambassador for México to the Republic of Costa Rica. He is the author of several works related to foreign policy and international economy.

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Georgina Mayer, Macrobiotic Chef and Counselor, Casa Macro, Co-owner and Co-Founder, Cauce Cooperativa Ambiental y De Salud

Georgina has been a macrobiotic chef and counselor at Casa Macro since 2013. 

She enjoys sharing her passion for the culinary arts for health and healing with the mission to inspire and promote wellness and satisfaction through food and lifestyle.


Casa Macro is the first vegan macrobiotic restaurant in Mexico. It offers a 100% plant based menu in an environmentally friendly space where one can enjoy healthy meals next to as small organic garden. At Casa Macro she also offers lectures, nutritional and macrobiotic counseling, cooking classes, organic garden workshops. People interested in learning about healthy foods, lifestyle and how to take care of their own health consciously through peaceful coexistence with our planet will get the skills and resources in a fun environment.

Georgina is the co-owner and co-founder of Cauce. Cauce is dedicated to the promotion of health and environmental issues through lectures, children’s plays and counseling for businesses, schools, families and individuals.

Georgina is a Plant Based Diets Chef by the Natural Epicurean Academy of Culinary Arts in Austin, TX, a Macrobiotics Counselor by Macrobiotics America, Oroville, CA and has a Nutrition diploma by Universidad del Claustro de Sor Juana. 

Diana PopaCo-founder and CEO, Extensio


Diana is a problem solver and risk taker who believes in the power of entrepreneurship to build sustainable social impact. She considers herself a citizen of the world and works to make it a better place. 


Diana is Co-founder and CEO of Extensio, Mexican B-Corporation dedicated to consolidating farming as a sustainable activity for present and future generations, thanks to timely access to critical information for decision making.


Diana holds an MSc in International Business from INSEEC Paris, France and counts with 16 years of experience in managing energy and agriculture projects internationally

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Paola RebollarCo-founder and CEO, Zahini


Paola holds a BEng in Chemical Engineering from University College London. She then worked at Deutsche Bank London, and spent a year in Germany before moving back to Mexico City. While living in Switzerland, she was diagnosed with a couple of food intolerances which sparked her deep interest in this area.

Upon her return to Mexico, and not finding many 'free-from' products at major supermarkets, she decided to launch her own dairy-free coconut based yogurt alternative. Production volumes scaled-up from her kitchen, to pilot plants, to co-packers and finally to her own production facility. Today, Zahini is sold through a leading high-end supermarket chain and in a number of specialized organic food stores in Mexico.

Paola is convinced that great quality plant-based products can be manufactured in Mexico and is committed to promoting and supporting other entrepreneurs in the industry.

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Roberto Salinas-León, Director, Center for Latin America, Atlas Network; and President of the Mexico Business Forum in Mexico City


Mr. Salinas-León holds a B.A. in Political Economy, History and Philosophy from Hillsdale College, Michigan; and an M.A. and Ph. D. in Philosophy, Purdue University, Indiana. 


He has been an Adjunct Professor of Philosophy and Political Economy at the Escuela Libre de Derecho, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, and Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México, in Mexico City. He has published over 2,000 editorials (English and Spanish) on policy topics and has been an occasional columnist in The Wall Street Journal, The Journal of Commerce, Investor’s Business Daily, Barrons, among many others. He is also is occasional commentator for CNN, CNN Latinamerica, CNCB, Reuters, the BBC, as well as ADN40 in Mexico City.

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Natalia Wills,  Country Representative Mexico, Pro Mujer


Natalia is a passionate development professional with 15+ years of experience in socio-economic development, social entrepreneurship and innovation. She holds a BA in International Business (EAFIT - Medellin) and a Masters in Development Evaluation and Management (Antwerp University). In 2007 was awarded the Province of Antwerp Development Cooperation Prize. She started her career working in the marketing area of multinational corporations, however; in 2003 she decided to join the social sector.


During the last 15 years she has worked for NGOs, foundations and social businesses in Colombia and Mexico, fostering grassroots economic and social development, social innovation, impact investing and corporate social responsibility. Her career has focused on the intersections between private and social sectors, where the market can be an engine for change. Natalia was in charge of launching Sistema B in Mexico (b-corporation). 

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