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Female Entrepreneurship: Strengths and Challenges

Check out the testimony of a female entrepreneur who built her own business, bringing it from the college lab to the market.

In the last episode of our podcast 'Start It Up', we interviewed Débora Campos, CEO and founder of AgroGrIN Tech and former participant in several BGI programs such as EIT Food EWA (Empowering Women in Agrifood) and EIT Climate-KIC Accelerator. This podcast was recorded on World Women's Day and we wanted to better understand her experience as a businesswoman and her vision regarding female entrepreneurship in Portugal. Read on to discover the highlights of this interesting conversation.

From lab to the market

Débora always imagined herself in the business world - perhaps because she came from a family of entrepreneurs. But in high school, she began her interest in science and biology, and academically pursued that interest until her PhD in Biotechnology. She later rediscovered her penchant for business and after finishing her PhD she saw the perfect opportunity to cross these two passions, and bring to market the knowledge she acquired with her scientific background.

This idea came about when Débora realized that despite the potential of her project to become economically sustainable, it was staying in the laboratory. "It was when I understood the scientific area and how things were done that I identified myself as a person that could help to make that path in entrepreneurship" she explained to us.

The only girl in the room

In the scientific field, Débora was always surrounded by powerful women, which was normal for her. It was when she started her career in the business field that she began to be surrounded by male colleagues. "At first, I felt like I didn't belong," she confessed. She later began to realize that she could establish good connections with her male peers, and while she feels that the world of entrepreneurship shouldn't be "a boys' playground", it eventually became the new normal for her.

Even so, Débora points out some challenges of her experience as an entrepreneur. "Personally I have to work harder to achieve what I want, compared to my fellow colleagues." In addition, Débora highlights the fact that men have more validation than women.

Another aspect mentioned during the conversation was the difficulty of knowing who to turn to to solve certain situations, especially if you don't have the right network nearby. This happens to both men and women, however women may feel that they are more isolated. "It's hard to find people who believe in your idea as much as you do" - explains Débora.

Breaking paradigms

On the changes that should be implemented to help women entrepreneurs achieve equal opportunities in business and the confidence to start their companies, Débora reinforces the importance of incentives and education.

“Until a few months ago I didn’t believe in quotations in the entrepreneurial world, but my mindset changed a little bit because I think that the culture in Portugal believes that women should do some things and men others. (...) So now, more and more, I’m believing that we must have equality (...) and we must pursue some quotations in the cooperative world to help women to be more confident in their roles and to achieve higher positions.”

From an education point of view, Débora mentioned her experience connecting with other female entrepreneurs and realized that there was a disbelief on their part in working and succeeding in areas that aren’t related to the family universe. "I saw that much of the ideas were targeted to children and to families, and I think women in other areas don't believe so much that they can bring big ideas to the market."