30/3/2023

How to use your leadership to turn this crisis into an opportunity

Here are some of the best practices that women entrepreneurs have used to face COVID-19 in this global pandemic period.
Karla Gallardo

Women are one of the groups that face the greatest vulnerability in times of crisis.The lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic has aggravated this situation even more. However, there are still good news. The challenges of this pandemic have also sharpened the resilient leadership capacity of women entrepreneurs and their skills to recover and reinvent themselves in times of crisis.

Women lead three out of five small and medium-sized companies that open in Mexico. Business women contribute 37% to the Gross Domestic Product, according to data from the NationalStatistics, Informatics and Geography Institute (INEGI).

Despite the solid representation of women in the country’s economy, the conditions we face leave us at a disadvantage. Mexican women spend four more hours daily on domestic chores and family care compared to men. In other words, it is almost impossible for a woman to find work-life balance. This without mentioning the economic value of unpaid work, which reaches up to MXN 4.4 trillion, according to INEGI.

Fora woman, establishing a company in Mexico is also a bigger challenge than for aman. According to the OECD (2019), women operate businesses with lower levels of capitalization and are more dependent on self-financing. Many women depend on internal financing and sometimes have small financial reserves.

In addition to these circumstances, COVID-19 has had immediate implications for women entrepreneurs and their financing capacity. Women entrepreneurs are at greater risk of having to shut down for extended periods, with substantially reduced or no income. More than 50% of small and medium-sized companies in OECD countries have lost significant income, putting them on the brink of bankruptcy within the next
three months.

A woman allocates more than 70% of her earnings to her community and her family, while men only invest between 30% and 40% of their resources in this way. When a woman stops receiving this income, she breaks this virtuous circle, which is vital for the economy. For this reason, VIWALA only invests in women, in order to strengthen them in those moments of crisis.

INEGI recently carried out a survey to assess the impact of COVID-19 on economic activity (ECOVID-IE), which made clear that “women’s businesses during the period of social distancing face more problems than those of men. 76.7% of the businesses owned by men faced problems, compared to 86.2% in the case of women. Men’s businesses affected by COVID-19 were 39.3% vs 44.9% of women’s businesses.In terms of lack of customers, men’s businesses were at 31.7% vs 34.5% of women’s businesses. In other kinds of issues, businesses owned by men reported values of5.8% vs 6.8% for women.”

Despite the inequality and the difficulties we face for entrepreneurship, there is evidence that women fail less than men. And this is also my experience. I have dedicated more than 15 years to working with women entrepreneurs and I have seen how their tenacity, perseverance and effort have led them to success. But also women work with strong motivation and creativity, due to the need to move forward, improve their quality of life and give their children better opportunities. I have also seen great dedication and attention to detail that often show in the quality of a product. Of course, this is not exclusive to women, but these qualities have been more evident as a success factor in women entrepreneurs.

Given the lockdown measures that we experienced in recent months, I have been able to identify some practices with which women entrepreneurs have faced this crisis and how they have used their resilient leadership to become stronger. Here are my five strategies to recover and reinvent yourself in times of crisis:

  1. Make decisions with empathy and firmness. Although it may seem contradictory, I believe that a balance of these two qualities is essential for business. When facing a crisis, the ability to walk in your customers’, suppliers’ and team’s shoes is essential. With this perspective, make firm and rational decisions focused on the success of the company.
  1. Define priorities. During a crisis you must be willing to risk and lose. However, it is essential to be very clear about what we can actually lose. Identifying those two or three priorities will help define the direction of decision making.
  1. Identify opportunities. An economic crisis does not mean that customer needs have disappeared. It is a good time to reinvent yourself and offer products and services that we had not identified before through online platforms, or simply adapted to our “new” reality.
  1. Strengthen transparency and communication. In times of crisis it is common to see how communication functions within a company take the back seat. A resilient leader prioritizes communication and clarity of the situation with their team, customers, and suppliers. Sharing information makes easier to find opportunities in order to overcome difficulties.
  1. Be more agile, flexible and adaptable. The pandemic left us in a situation of absolute uncertainty. Our decisions probably have to change from one day to the next or our strategy has to adapt to the “new” circumstances. It is time to be constantly creative, proactive and agile in order to seize the opportunities that this crisis offers us.

 

My hope is that in a few years we will look back and be grateful for livingin a better reality thanks to the lessons learned from this terrible pandemic.

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