About the Authors: Amber Forbes serves as a Public Affairs Assistant in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs.
We know her best simply as Mayu. It is a sign of how actively involved Mayu Brizuela has become with a group of women entrepreneurs to make sure that they too can take full advantage of the economic and trade policies throughout the Western Hemisphere.
She is, after all, the first woman to serve as Minister of Foreign Affairs in El Salvador (1999-2004) and has has been a strong advocate for women's economic inclusion throughout her extraordinary career. She has held several senior positions in banking and industry. Consequentially, Mayu is no stranger to the unique pressures on women in professional spheres or the difficulties entailed in gaining equal access to resources and opportunities. In addition to being a Pathways Envoy, Mayu currently serves as the Regional Director of Corporate Social Responsibility in Latin America for HSBC.
As a State-Department sponsored Pathways Envoy, Mayu participated in our kickoff Women Entrepreneurs' Conference in October 2009 entitled “ACCESS.” The State Department hosted this seminal event along with partners in the private sector and non-governmental organizations. The conference provided participants access to information regarding trade, finance, markets, and technology, and also presented an unprecedented international networking opportunity. Read more about the Pathways to Prosperity Women Entrepreneurs conference here.
Mayu's role as a Pathways Envoy is to continue engagement in the region and to promote women's economic inclusion. Mayu recently attended the Pathways Trade Ministerial in San Jose, Costa Rica, where she gave a keynote address to women entrepreneurs. She also met with the four participants from the October conference that were selected to attend the Ministerial and give workshops on their paths to success. I had the opportunity to speak with Mayu about her experience.
What does the Pathways Initiative mean to you?Mayu: I am honored to have attended the Ministerial meeting of the 14 member countries of the Pathways to Prosperity Initiative. Pathways is a vehicle for social inclusion and a way to ensure that women are at the heart of development. Women contribute to the development of their communities and their economic inclusion is an important step down the path to prosperity.
What topics did you cover during your keynote address?Mayu: My address highlighted the ways in which women can search for and take advantage of the opportunities given by free trade. I spoke about the Pathways webpage, which provides so much information regarding financial education, import-export info, and various ways that women around the Americas can connect with one another. I also underscored the opportunities that women should seize to grow their networks. If we expand our networks throughout Latin America and stand together, united as women entrepreneurs, we will all have increased opportunities to grow and prosper.
Tell me about the workshops that the four Pathways women hosted in San Jose.Mayu: Pathways women entrepreneurs led two workshops on "Challenges and Business Opportunities for Women in the Americas." They each shared their business strategies for success with the other women entrepreneurs present.
I moderated the workshop with Monica Pacheco, owner of PMP Exports, from Canada and Jacqueline Perez, owner of Calzado Reyes, from Nicaragua. Monica discussed how she expanded her business by working with distributors, landing several contracts and increasing sales. Jacqueline related her experience of going from business closure to re-focusing for a successful new start. My colleague, Marsha McLean, a Senior Consultant with the U.S.-State Department, moderated the other workshop with Jessica Rodriguez from Peru and Diana Martinez from Honduras. Diana discussed the power of marketing and media outreach to gain recognition and increased sales, whereas Jessica focused on the power of networking to hold market share in a difficult economy.
These four women were an inspiration. There was no mistaking the passion and energy that they have for their businesses and for sharing their lessons learned with other entrepreneurs. (Learn more about these four Pathways women and their success stories here.)
What is your next engagement as a Pathways Envoy?Mayu: I'm working with Marsha and other colleagues at the U.S. State Department now to develop travel plans for the next several months. One of our biggest priorities in the short term is supporting a large gathering of Central American women entrepreneurs in Guatemala this May. I certainly look forward to meeting these outstanding innovators.
See photos from Mayu's trip and stay tuned for more news on Mayu's travels!