According to a report published this month by PwC, 42% of women in the world are afraid that motherhood will have a negative impact on their professional career and 45% of Spanish women have this fear. Despite the responsibilities that leading a business venture can entail, some female scientists find entrepreneurship is a way to achieve a better work-life balance, as they can control their own schedule.
Nuria Amigó is one of the entrepreneurs who has seen her thesis blossom into a company. Since 2015, she has headed up Biosfer Teslab with the dream of bringing her research to patients: in vitro diagnostic tests to improve cardiac risk assessment in high-risk patients.
“There are more female doctors, pharmacists and biologists than male ones; so in PhD programs there will also be more women who eventually develop a successful product that can be useful to society,” contends Amigó. “Like the natural selection of species, a favorable environment has been created for more women to survive the process.”
Amigó hasn’t run up against any gender obstacles along her path. “In my case, the only case of gender bias was when I became a mother, as I voluntarily and forcibly had to stop for a few weeks,” she remembers. “Nevertheless, planning inside the organization allowed the company to carry on with the support and understanding of partners and clients.”
Maria Jesús Salido held various positions at technology companies before founding Social Diabetes in 2011. This digital platform seeks to better manage diabetic patients in collaboration with their doctors and the online community.
“Because I’m a woman, I come up against obstacles every day: it is more difficult to generate confidence among investors; I walk into a negotiation and often am not considered a valid participant; I continuously have to put up with advice and paternalistic attitudes from men; I’m labeled as aggressive when I’m simply acting assertively,” she gives examples.
Nevertheless, Salido celebrates that “entrepreneurship has allowed women to take control of their professional careers, giving them more flexibility and making their results more visible, putting their knowledge to the service of the market without intermediaries.”
“The obstacles I’ve come up against make me more aware of my responsibility,” she admits. That’s why she sets an example in her own company: half of the 12 employees at Social Diabetes are women, and respect for personal lives and maternity is an integral part of the work dynamic at the company.
One of the latest companies created in the BioRegion is DBGen, a spin-off of the University of Barcelona that is working on genetic diagnosis of eye conditions. “In starting up the company, being a woman wasn’t an impediment,” says co-founder Roser González Duarte. “In our case, the business activity has come from applying scientific research we’ve been developing for more than 25 years on the genes that cause hereditary eye conditions. We’re well known in this field and the knowledge we’ve amassed dissipates any concerns about us failing. Another important point,” she recognizes, “is that we haven’t asked for help from investors.”
González Duarte is the most senior of all the entrepreneurs in this report (in fact, she just became a grandmother) but with an all-female founding team, she is well aware of the challenges of work-life balance. “Creating a company takes dedication,” she warns. “Juggling the long hours at work with a personal life, especially with children in the family, is very difficult: too difficult for many women.”
The main European consortium in healthcare, EIT Health, has made female entrepreneurship in healthcare innovation one of its strategic priorities. In an interview published recently by EIT Health with Magda Rosenmöller, professor at IESE Business School, Rosenmöller highlighted that one of the obstacles facing female entrepreneurs in the sector today is that many women feel socially obligated to choose between their professional career and taking care of their family. Another barrier, according to this expert, is that it is hard for women to see themselves as entrepreneurs. Raising awareness of other women in this role, like those in this report, is a way of breaking this mental image.