Angelica Fuentes is a mom, a business-woman, an impact investor and a fierce women’s rights advocate. Throughout her career, she has fully embraced the mission of promoting gender equality, engaging in numerous efforts to increase opportunities for women through implementation of policies within her own companies, impact investments, and participation in organizations and professional groups that support the cause of women.
What were your initial years of growing up like?
I was born into a family that owns a leading group in the energy, real estate, and agricultural sectors. However, this fact never afforded me any special privilege when it came to the world of work. From the moment I started out my career at 11, dispensing gas and cleaning windshields at one of our gas stations during summers, I faced gender discrimination. I realized that customers tipped the male workers at the station, but they never tipped me. One day I asked a client why, and he answered: “because you are a woman.” This statement made a profound impression.
I began my career in the family business Grupo Imperial. At 29, I became the CEO and positioned the company as a top player in Northern Mexico’s energy sector. I also served as CEO of the Mexico-based multinational Grupo Omnilife/Chivas. In 2010, I founded Angelíssima, a line of cosmetics and beauty products based on a philosophy of female financial and personal independence. Under my leadership, the company became one of the top 100 corporations in Mexico. I also positioned Grupo Omnilife/Angelíssima/Chivas as a corporate leader in Mexico in terms of practices that incorporate a gender perspective. In 2014, I founded the Angélica Fuentes Foundation dedicated to the promotion of gender equality in Latin America. In 2019, I founded Muvop, a microfinance institution that targets those who lack access to credits and provides an e-learning platform focused on personal development and financial education.
Over the years, just like most women in the workplace, I faced this discriminatory attitude numerous times in a variety of settings. I always had to prove that I had the necessary skills and capacity, and I had to push twice as hard as my male colleagues to advance. I knew I had to be very well prepared for every meeting and every task. I also learned that I had to use my voice to claim my rights.
As a businesswoman, I have experienced firsthand the obstacles women face when trying to fulfill their professional aspirations, and I am determined to remove as many of these barriers as I can.
Tell us something about your mission in life. What is it about and how is it helpful for people?
For me, encouraging women to believe in themselves means everything; it is my mission in life. No other objective is more important to me than helping others find their own path, their own space, and their own voice.
Gender equality has always been a priority in all my endeavors, as I am convinced that these are fundamental pieces for sustainable development. Every project or company I create, includes a gender perspective, supports women’s rights, and promotes equality.
I don’t work on behalf of women simply because I am a woman, but because I see an inequity and I am committed to correct it. For hundreds of years women have been relegated to menial roles in the best of cases and have been brutally abused in the worst of cases. It is necessary to bring women to a level of parity with men in order to create a more just world in which both women and men enjoy the same access to opportunities.
Women account for more than half of the world’s population. It is inconceivable that in the 21st century, women and girls continue to face discrimination throughout the planet. In some societies, they lack even the most basic rights, such as healthcare or the possibility to attend school. They are forced into early marriages and denied any opportunity to pursue their personal ambitions. Even in societies where these extreme situations don’t happen, women are paid less than men for equal work, denied access to professional advancement, or face great difficulties accessing credit and opening a bank account.
Gender inequality is not only an attempt against human rights, but has negative consequences for the development of society as a whole. Closing gender gaps would help reduce poverty, create jobs, foster social development, and spur growth and innovation. Women’s economic independence means greater agency, opportunities, and control over resources. This contributes to poverty eradication and inclusive economic growth. In addition, it is a potential solution for other problems women face, such as gender violence.
The key goals of development and progress cannot be separated from gender parity. I believe that the decisions that shape our world must include the vision that women can bring, as well as that of men. It is not only a matter that two heads think better than one, but that two complementary visions can help us to better perceive our complex reality in a different way, and understand it more completely.
The great Gabriela Mistral — the first Latin American woman poet to win the Nobel Prize — said it best: “Sé tú el que aparta la piedra del camino.” Wherever there is an obstacle, be the one who clears the way. And that is what I try to do in all my projects.
In Spanish we have a saying: “poner mi granito de arena”. This means that with my efforts, I am adding my “little grain of sand” to improve the quality of life for girls and women. The task of achieving gender equality is monumental; there is so much more to do, I am convinced that no action, as small as it might seem, is insignificant. Everything counts, and the real change starts within ourselves.
While the global pandemic of COVID-19 is associated primarily with adversities, it has also brought about a true boom in startups, with successful entrepreneurship in many countries. The pandemic has impacted all of us in one way or another. Would you like to share your experience on a personal and professional level?
While the global pandemic of COVID-19 is associated primarily with adversities, it has also brought about a true boom in startups, with successful entrepreneurship in many countries. The pandemic has impacted all of us in one way or another. Would you like to share the importance of women in the recovery process?
Women are a key factor to overcome the crisis left by the COVID-19 pandemic; we are a major driver of rapid economic recovery. There’s a growing consensus that women’s economic independence is necessary to drive global growth and sustainability. In rebuilding post-pandemic economies, women must be at the center of the recovery strategies. I advocate for women’s economic independence to be considered a central pillar of all post COVID-19 reconstruction efforts as a means to ensure an accelerated, inclusive and sustainable development.
There is one thing I am certain of: we cannot go back to the pre pandemic status quo. We must ensure a more inclusive and sustainable future, and women should be at the center of that vision. We are at a turning point: our choices, actions and blunders will design the future.
What has been the response of the users/consumers towards your message?
I believe we are in a paradigm shift regarding the place of women and girls in society. We are overcoming the attitudes and perspectives in our cultures that continue to enforce archaic stereotypes about the roles of men and women. Many women are conscious that gender does not have to decide who they are and what they want to become. Enough is enough. We are not going to tolerate abuse, discrimination and violence anymore.
This isn’t only the right thing to do, but also the smart thing to do if we want to generate and accelerate development.
How has your life changed because of your initiative/venture?
To put it in blunt terms: any company or society that undermines women is shooting itself in the foot. Gender equality can change women’s lives, which in turn transform families and communities.
Do you have anyone who is the biggest support system in your life? Please let us know.
My daughters are my biggest inspiration in life, and also my support system. I have dreams for their future, and for the future of more than half of the world’s population: A future where men and women are treated equally, and have the same opportunities. A future in which women are free to make their own decisions and develop their full potential. A future of gender equity means a brighter future.
Would you like to share a motivational message for the audience/women who are reading this.
Believe in yourselves!
My advice is: believe in your own talents and skills. The more women become aware of their power, the faster they will be able to move forward in the development of their full potential.
The single most important lesson I learned, in business and life, is that I compete against myself. This means I work very hard to be better today than I was yesterday by challenging assumptions, developing the ability to be self-critical, and adopting an attitude of perpetual learning.
One advances in their career by following the same basic guidelines that one uses to grow as a human being: work hard, have a plan, dare to risk, and don’t be afraid to fail. This last statement is particularly true for women. We have been socialized to believe that failure is unacceptable, so we prefer to stay in the safe zone. But thinking conservatively and playing it small will never help you achieve ambitious objectives.
Work with courage and tenacity to achieve your goals. Nothing is impossible if you can imagine it. Trusting yourself will give you freedom to feel and create. Walls fall down when you nurture your self-confidence. Don’t hide your talents, let them flourish! Use constructive criticism to identify your areas of opportunity and work on improving them. You might stumble, but never give up. Do not give up on your right to decide your own path.
Always remember that gender does not define you; don’t let it decide anything for you. You are free to pursue your dreams. You have the power to control and guide your own life based on what you want, not on what other people expect from you. You have to accept yourself. It is not easy and it requires courage, but it is the first step. Then, be proud of all the experiences that have made you who you are today. Keep in mind that the past is gone and you have to continue going forward. You are not perfect, nobody is. Use every challenge to become a better person, to grow, to reveal your true self. Allow yourself to be happy, allow your heart to feel.
I believe there are no mistakes but opportunities to keep on learning and improving. A key for success is not being afraid to fail. We all have the right to make mistakes; the important thing is to be able to internalize the lesson and use them to grow and become a better person. Stop trying to be perfect, you can learn a lot from your imperfections. Your mistakes do not define you, but your attitude towards life does. You have a great potential, so unleash your talents, think big, and work hard to achieve your goals.