5 Insights from a Feminist Entrepreneur
On Thursday the 18th of April, I attended a sit-down dinner and discussion with Mia Perdomo at Claremont McKenna College. This was the penultimate “Dinner with World Changers,” where Kravis Lab for Social Impact invites award-winning entrepreneurs engaged in worldly work that makes a social impact.
Mia is no exception to this description: alongside being an incredibly feminist and inspirational activist, Mia founded Aequales, a South American gender equality consultancy firm, which turned a profit in just one and a half years; she created “PAR,” a universal gender equality ranking to measure organizational practices such as women in leadership, sexual harassment policies and recruiting; and she is currently steering the company into the world of technology.
I emailed Mia asking to write and publish this article because it was so important for me to hear her story. I believe that this readership and the feminist community needs to hear it too. So, in the spirit of lists (this might be a pattern for me!), here are 5 lessons I learned from Mia Perdomo.
1. You don’t have to sacrifice money to achieve a social mission
Aequales is a profitable consulting firm completely driven by the social mission of gender equality. Mia explained that her choice to be a for-profit company, rather than a non-governmental organization (NGO), was not only so that her team could support themselves, but to face large corporations on the same level and terms. Mai also noted that NGOs are not taken as seriously as for-profit firms are in Latin America. Thus, Aequales has risen to where it is now because it works with contemporary political, social and economic system, as opposed to under or against it.
My takeaway: Make money and do social good… but in the most effective, viable and context-driven way possible. This gets you to an equal business playing field.
2. Create an urgency
In order to sell their service, Aequales created a public urgency to use their solution. They created PAR, a corporate gender equality ranking, which measures equality conditions in businesses across Latin America. The PAR diagnostic test is completely free, and Aqeuales is able to collect data about the various working conditions that are beneficial (or not so beneficial) to women. And… by awarding and promoting those businesses who rise above the ranks as a gender-inclusive and empowering environment to the public, Aequales creates urgency and a need to score well. Thus, businesses must implement suitable processes. The cycle continues!
My takeaway: If you want the public to see your solution as the only solution, then repaint the problem…
3. Assert yourself as a (business)woman
Although I’ve been using this word a lot here, the “F” word is often not a strategic angle in a business pitch. As sad as this sounds, it’s true! Mia agreed with my point and explained how Aequales weaves feminist concepts into their consulting pitches: companies perform better with women on board! For larger corporations whose decisions center around profits, this is the hook, which reals them in to align with Aequales’ goals.
My takeaway: Strengthen your arguments with data that benefits both parties; frame your motives, ideas, and suggestions in a way that fulfills your values and those of the organization you are working with.
4. Have a long-term plan
As I mentioned above, Mia’s company is transitioning from consulting to technology. She has already hired a 3-person tech team to start Aequales’ next project: a system that can tell organizations where they are in terms of gender equality, and even make predictions about their future decisions. The way in which Aequales is adapting to a worldwide shift in technology asserts itself as a sustainable and forward-thinking company. Mia even admitted she was not sure how the project will turn out, but she wants to take the risk in order to transcend with other rising tech companies.
My takeaway: Be honest about how sustainable your business plan (or personal goal in life) is in the future. Changes in the world around you might challenge your plan, so you must interlace them and adapt!
5. Let your passion take the reins
In response to my question “how do you continue when things get hard,” Mia laughed and said there is “nothing [she] can do to stop.” She wholeheartedly embodies a feminist mindset and believes that “if not [her], then who; if not now, then when?” It was incredible to see how Mia’s passion is at the root of her work. Each day spent in the office is another step, however small it may feel, to a more feminist future.
My takeaway: Be authentic about your passions and understand why you are involved in your organization/club/etc. Every single day of my life, I am trying to reconcile my feminist persona with notions of not seeming too “bossy” or opinionated. This shouldn’t be what drives my decisions. Instead, I want to be like Mia, who could never be in a world where she is not a feminist and vocal about it.