In 2014, with the birth of Olivia, her first daughter, Fabiana Jafif made an important decision: give up her job at giant Google and seek a friendlier relationship between motherhood and working life. “It was hard to organize daily logistics with my daughter, who was 8 months old at the time. I prioritized staying at home with her”, she says.
Graduated in Public Relations, Fabiana is Brazilian and has lived in Buenos Aires for the past 19 years. In her curriculum, there are big names of the industry, like LG Electronics and Teletech, besides Google. Already at home to follow more closely Olivia’s growth, Fabiana decided to share her experiences and give tips to mothers who were going through the same situation as her.
“I started a blog to talk about the challenges of motherhood and the B side they don’t tell you about before you are a mother. This is how De Madre a Madre, which is today one of the best-ranked blogs in Google Argentina, was born”, she says.
In addition to the content about motherhood in general, Fabiana has started to write aiming specifically at entrepreneurial mothers–and they are not few. According to the Argentine Entrepreneurs Association (ASEA), women led 40% of the country’s endeavors by the end of 2018.
The task of providing readers with guidance and tips has expanded beyond the blog, and today Fabiana works as a mentor to mothers. She is also a contributor to Vital Voices Argentina and is a mentor at the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women.
As a private mentor, Fabiana helps moms turn business ideas into concrete and successful actions by pondering the risks and potentials of each venture. With a busy schedule as a speaker on maternal empowerment and entrepreneurship, she created, four years ago, the event “Woman, Mother, and Entrepreneur”, which brings together more than 200 mothers in Buenos Aires to network and enhance their projects.
Fabiana tries to show in her lectures and projects that the entrepreneurial journey requires good doses of insistence and organization. “Overcoming obstacles requires planning, commitment to the business and understanding that it is necessary to look at it as work, to create time on your agenda. Saying we don’t have time is easy. When we really want something, we find the time in two seconds”, she says.
The challenge of being two in one
Fabiana’s story is not the only one in which motherhood and entrepreneurship meet due to aspects of the labor market that need to be improved to ensure the effective participation of mothers in the business world.
In a survey of 3,000 Argentine businesswomen, Fabiana found that 53% of them started being entrepreneurs after motherhood, indicating that for many women, being a mother and working in a business may not be a very easy task.
This reality is not limited to the borders of Argentina. In Mexico, Victoria 147, a business academy that helps entrepreneurs grow their businesses, also deals closely with the reality of mothers in the business environment. For Victoria 147 Managing Director Ana Victoria García, the growing presence of women in the labor market is demanding a profound reorganization of companies.
For her, the first step in overcoming these obstacles is to talk about them. “At Victoria 1447, we conduct forums, write and talk about it, which is very important because it starts to raise awareness”.
If women’s participation in the labor market and in the business world is transforming organizational environments, it also inserts new paradigms in the family environment. Ana Victoria also sees the egalitarian division of family responsibilities as a central point when it comes to women’s professional careers.
“Today, the mother works the same hours as a man and also does household chores and takes care of her children. If we started to share the responsibilities of the family equally, we would have a better performance of women in the job market”, she explains.
Regardless of the reason that led them to entrepreneurship, the fact is that an increasing number of women are protagonists of their own businesses in Mexico. Ana Victoria emphasizes the importance of coexistence circles and sharing of experiences among these businesswomen. “One way to tackle obstacles is to create affinity groups and bring entrepreneurial mothers together in this circle of trust, where they can feel accompanied, feel that they are not alone,” she says.
Being a mother without feeling guilty
Each story has its own peculiarities, but for Ana Cecilia Pérez Cristo, Entrepreneurship Director at Victoria 147, the challenges that entrepreneurial mothers face are mostly of two kinds: logistical and emotional. She was a mother recently and, in her view, the first step women need to take is to define what kind of entrepreneurial mother they want to be.
“Prepare yourself personally without defining if there is a right or wrong way to be a mother. For example, decide whether to leave your children in a nursery, or with a nanny, or take them to the office. It all depends a lot on your decision and how you want to educate them”, she says.
For Ana Cecília, it takes a lot of dedication to perform both the functions of mother and businesswoman, and the organization of the workflow and agility make all the difference. “To do that, have a work team that you can delegate activities to and make things more efficient using technology. Enjoy connectivity to receive calls and improve dynamics outside the office”, she advises.
Ana Victoria recalls that the arrival of a baby creates uncertainty and demands from mothers, besides a permanent effort to balance functions. “There are always eventualities, and suddenly women’s priorities as a businesswoman and as a mother don’t align. The mother’s challenge is to be very clear about the responsibilities of these two areas and to be able to reconcile them in a harmonious way to avoid frustration”, she guides.
The issue of gender equality is undoubtedly on the rise. Brands understood the importance of giving visibility to the theme, companies became aware of the importance of ensuring environments that are more egalitarian, and it is no different in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. There are daily and permanent efforts to make it better suited to the reality of the moms they endeavor.
For Ana Cecília, building a more welcoming environment for mothers in the business world requires a collective work of empathy. “We need to be very aware that, over a period of time, mothers will be more absent, but that doesn’t mean they are less efficient”, she says.
She also cites simple structural measures that make all the difference to business mothers. “With regard to events and activities, have a space reserved for breastfeeding. In addition, to make maternal networking possible, mornings are simpler for mothers than afternoons and evenings”.
We asked Fabiana what she thinks needs to advance in the entrepreneurial ecosystem so that mothers feel more welcome. For her, this answer goes far beyond the business world. “The social tradition that mothers have to stay at home exclusively taking care of their children is old-fashioned. It’s not like that anymore”, she says.
Finally, building an increasingly friendly entrepreneurial ecosystem goes far beyond charging third-party actions: it also involves striving to be an example to follow. “At Victoria 147, we try to understand what our challenges are and how to overcome them internally with our team. We had successful experiences and this is the way we are learning to solve these needs”, says Ana Victoria.
Translated by Jennifer Ann Koppe