Breaking Patterns: Advancing Gender Equality in Entrepreneurship

This International Women's Day, Simone Ramseier, our Junior Project Manager, shared with us her views in an inspiring article about gender equality. Read in full here.

– by Simone Ramseier, Junior Project Manager at Swissnex in Brazil

March 8 marks International Women’s Day, an important day not only in my eyes but also for Swissnex in Brazil. Did you know that in 10 years, we had 3 women CEOs leading our organization? That is normal or nothing special you say? Well, I do agree that it should be normal, but let us take a closer look into the Swiss-Brazilian female entrepreneurship ecosystem, where we are today, and what Swissnex in Brazil does to support women.

Brazil has made immense progress over the last few years regarding gender equality, especially in female entrepreneurship. According to last year’s Global Gender Equality report by the World Economic Forum, Switzerland had a step back and lost 8 places compared to the previous year, while Brazil moved up 37 places.

In the Brazilian landscape, women can find support from organizations, institutions, and, in some states, from the government and its initiatives. That includes accelerators, social impact programs, networks, and platforms for different needs. One type of program that particularly caught my attention is not directly related to entrepreneurship or accelerating a business but to help women either move from a career break back into the job market or programs specifically designed to help women juggle motherhood and career at the same time. In Switzerland, the number of female CEOs rose to about 20% in 2023, and opportunities for female entrepreneurs are increasing through programs from the government, universities, and accelerators.

All this positive change is excellent and a step in the right direction. However, the numbers need to rise faster, and change is not happening at the pace it should. According to the United Nations, it will take another 140 years for women to be represented equally in leadership positions if we continue at the rate we are going. In 2024, women still have to earn the right to accomplish their dreams, and we have to work for everything just a bit harder. And it doesn’t stop there. Unfortunately, progress stagnates once it comes to a socially acceptable improvement, making the fight for our rights even harder.

Noticeably, the majority of initiatives, programs, and encouragement for gender equality come from women. We are not content with little progress and will continue to create this positive impact for each other with our best efforts and implementing different programs. However, for faster progress and less stagnation, we need everyone’s help since gender equality is not only a woman’s job. The pattern – that women are responsible for equality and progress – needs to be broken.

Jeyran Hezaveh, co-founder and CEO of Avatronics at the Web Summit Rio 2023 during the Women in Tech talk at the swisstech pavilion.

At Swissnex in Brazil, we worked with amazing women across various sectors and programs. In 2023, we had 2 female researchers through our ZHAW (Zurich University of Applied Sciences) program coming to Brazil; various startups with women in the lead, like Nutrix, led by Maria Hahn, and Avatronics, led by Jeyran Hezaveh. We also collaborated closely with Leticia Vargas from the University of St.Gallen – Leading House for the Latin American Region, who created the program Rede Brasil-Suiça in Switzerland.

In 2024, we expect no less and want to drive female entrepreneurship to new heights at Swissnex in Brazil, be it during the upcoming Bootcamp Future of Food, the WebSummit, the nexBio Amazônia, or for our Innosuisse startup camps throughout the year.

So what can we do to keep improving? Working together with Swiss startups, female founders, researchers, and entrepreneurs, we see every day that there is still a lot of work to be done to create better possibilities for women. Swissnex in Brazil offers everyone opportunities, but we perceive that it can be more challenging for female startup founders to bring everything under one umbrella, especially when one’s family is involved.

With all of these organizations present in Brazil, we are connecting with local organizations and initiatives that offer services and can help generate equal chances for everyone. That is why we recently launched a new project that focuses on better accommodating women and their needs in different situations when they come to Brazil for research, market validation, entry camps, or other programs. We hope this will help more women currently facing the choice between career or family, facilitate life, and take away any feelings of guilt that society is enforcing. That should never be a barrier or obstacle for women in any position and segment.

March is an important month to raise awareness, but let us not stop here. Like all things, we need to work on finding solutions and bettering the ecosystem daily and not just do it once a year when it is officially time to advertise it. There needs to be continuous effort and collaboration in both personal and professional spheres coming from everyone for us to reach gender equality faster.

We asked a few female leaders to answer the question:

How do you believe your work is making a positive impact, especially in the context of empowering women?