Given that more than half of the island’s population is female and that women represent 45 percent of Puerto Rico’s labor force, it should come as no surprise that they should deserve to get financial and professional support to continue to thrive in their careers.
“The number of women who are heads of household has increased 475 percent since 1970, and nowadays one in every three families is led by a woman,” said Economist Vicente Feliciano, president of Advantage Business Consulting, citing U.S. Census and Labor Department statistics.
That said, Doral Bank is stepping up to the task of supporting female entrepreneurs and professionals through its most recent corporate social responsibility program, “Mujeres d Éxito,” an initiative unveiled Wednesday into which it will pump $1 million during its first year.
“The female segment plays an increasingly important role in the Puerto Rican economy. For this reason, in Doral we are convinced that if their growth opportunities strengthen, the island’s economy will do so as well,” said Glen Wakeman, president and CEO of Doral Financial Corporation.
The investment will be split to support internships, micro-loans and entrepreneurial programs of various socioeconomic scales in different stages of their professional and economic development, said Lucienne Gigante, senior vice president of marketing and public relations at Doral Bank.
“Mujeres d Éxito is a continuation of our commitment with the Puerto Rican woman, expressed in the past through initiatives such as Pink, Ruta Pink and the Women Leadership Network, now expanded to address the economic subject through a long term program that provides tangible tools to women and future entrepreneurs of all socioeconomic levels,” Gigante said, noting that the idea is that the new initiative will last beyond the first year.
The three-pronged initiative includes an internship program for college students in alliance with the University of Puerto Rico at Bayamón and Universidad del Turabo. The first five of a total of 10 female students are already participating in the “Internado Doral” program, earning 188 credits for their learning experience at different divisions of the bank.
Through “Fondo Doral,” the bank will work in alliance with the Puerto Rico Community Foundation to support the development of micro-loan programs in nonprofit organizations specialized in aiding low-income women. Doral will put up $100,000 to support the program. The application cycle for this program will begin in October.
Meanwhile, through “Despegue Empresarial,” the bank will assign $50,000 to five small businesses, all directed by women who demonstrate growth potential. Half of the amount will be granted as a donation while the remaining $25,000 will be given as a loan with much more flexible terms than those prevailing in the market, Gigante said.
The loan repayments will revert back to the Fondo Doral, which in turn will help generate future financing opportunities. The bank will start receiving applications in November.
An external advisory committee composed of a varied group of professional women will be in charge of selecting the businesses that will benefit under “Despegue Empresarial.”
The committee will be composed by Hilary Hattler, president of Telemundo PR; Carla Haeussler, president of Carla’s Sweets; Attorney María Teresa Szendrey, partner at Fiddler, González & Rodríguez; CPA Dervin Cabassa, senior tax manager at Scherrer Hernández & Co.; Ysa de Jesús, co-founder of Alive; Ileana Font, founding partner of LIH advertising agency; and Gigante.
In addition to facilitating capital access, the Mujeres d Éxito program pursues offering mentorship, experience and networking opportunities that will promote the professional enrichment of its participants.
All the initiatives of the program will interact with the Women’s Leadership Network, a social media outlet that facilitates valuable information and discussion forums about topics of interest to entrepreneurial women, Doral officials said during a news conference at its Roosevelt Avenue headquarters.