Canal de Empresarias: Panama’s largest network for female entrepeneurship
Artists, architects, politicians, farmers, doctors, teachers, scientists … more and more women are revolutionizing the world with their knowledge in different fields, an idea that years ago nobody would have thought possible. Business speech says anyone can succeed in business if they want it, however, evidence has shown that there is a global gender bias that forces women to cross deeper oceans when they launch into the market.
Nonetheless, women from all continents are creating businesses at an accelerated rate, contributing significantly to the development of countries. As long as women participate freely and fully in economic activity as business owners, “the world economy is ready for growth” assures a 2019 report from the International Labor Organization (ILO).
The studies conclude that for every ten men, there are seen women entrepreneurs in the world (GEM, 2019); in Central America, the proportion of women-owned businesses increased almost 60% between 1991 and 2018 (ILO, 2019); and in Panama, 14% of women between 18 and 64 years are encouraged to become entrepreneurs (GEM, 2019). This shows a marked increase in the number of businesswomen who challenge collective stereotypes and fight against inequality, using their extraordinary power to open new paths in the business world.
Their role as business owners is key to generate opportunities, employment and income which, in general, they reinvest in their families and communities. This is what the Female Entrepreneurship Manager of the Innovation Center of the City of Knowledge, Larú Linares, believes: “empowering women adds social value, because their business ideas – usually – are focused on social and welfare issues. They are excellent bookkeepers and there is a fairly high percentage of them that support their homes. Supporting them is then a firm step towards the future, ”she explains. According to the ILO, improving economic opportunities for women entrepreneurs not only benefits women themselves and their families, but also countries’ economies and labor markets.
“In the Isthmus, great advances have been made in terms of female entrepreneurship thanks to the fact that multi-sector organizations have come together to strengthen the female presence in the business world (City of Knowledge, AMPYME, SENACYT, Cable Onda, Voces Vitales, the IDB , among others) but there is still a long way to go, ”concludes Linares. In the long term, more institutions are expected to join this objective, bringing the discourse of female entrepreneurship to universities and colleges, and strengthening social entrepreneurship initiatives that respond to the needs of communities.
A collaborative ecosystem
The City of Knowledge Foundation, as part of its ongoing commitment to promote a favorable ecosystem for entrepreneurship and SMEs run by women in Panama, has led the Canal de Empresarias, a network of women who come together to empower their ideas.
The Canal de Empresarias annually opens a call where the business ideas with the greatest growth potential are selected, the entrepreneurs behind them later join the acceleration program where they receive support to make their businesses more competitive. 2,650 women have participated in the training throughout the program’s six editions. In the 2019, more than 2,200 women entrepreneurs were nominated for the call and 450 were selected. The 2020 call began this February.
But Canal de Empresarias Channel goes beyond this acceleration program. Women entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs throughout Panama have the opportunity to meet in different spaces to co-create knowledge in different activities. Women who have already finished different processes accompany those who are only in the beginner’s phase, through monthly training; the training is open and free. “Different specialists in various subjects come and donate hours in the year on these key issues of female entrepreneurship,” explains Larú.
Since networks are the bridge that connects ideas and people, Canal de Empresarias has become a community of more than 5,000 dynamic women, who come together to forge business relationships and support each other In the business world.
All this facilitates the spur of support networks and bonds of trust among women entrepreneurs that take their businesses and ventures to a more competitive level: “the community is a space to promote oneself, networks are created that open immediate doors for women to make their startups known in other provinces, and even other countries, since some of the enterprises have had the opportunity to internationalize ”, says Larú. Thus, Canal de Empresarias becomes a bridge that strengthens the development of “skills” which could significantly increase the likelihood of women being successful employers.
This year, due to the health crisis, the Canal de Empresarias program has been 100% virtual, leaving a first remote selection with 1,575 applicants and 450 selected.