Gina Diez Barroso :The founding story of her organisation

Her journey began with one of the great heroes and mentors in her life: her grandfather. He founded Mexico’s first radio station, which later became Televisa, the leading broadcasting media company in the Spanish-speaking world. Although she worked for Televisa for several years; she knew deep down that she wanted to trace her own path and make a name for herself.

Out of a deep passion for design, architecture, and construction, she started Grupo Diarq, a firm that innovated by offering all three areas under one same roof. Diarq grew fast. It was the first company to showcase model homes, apartments, and hotels in Mexico.

Even though Diarq was enormously successful, she wasn’t satisfied. She was reminded of the great legacy her grandfather had left behind in telecommunications in Mexico. So, she wondered, “What legacy was I leaving?” Houses, buildings? She always believed that the way to help people succeed in life is through a good education. What frustrated her was seeing how education was stuck using obsolete methods and, as a result, creative education wasn’t moving forward despite all the technological developments happening around the world. Therefore, she decided that it was time to start building her legacy. It was then that she decided that her next venture would be to establish a University for creative disciplines, with novel teaching methods and an innovative curriculum, combined with an entrepreneurship and business component. Establishing a University was not an easy project. Actually, it was her most difficult project, Gina said. She encountered many hurdles and nay-sayers, but she made a point to surround herself with people who believed in her project and vision and who contributed to making the project come to fruition.

In 2004, after six years of research and development, she launched CENTRO University. CENTRO has been a great success. It currently offers seven undergraduate programs, 22 postgraduate courses, and 200 continuing education courses and is affiliated with the leading design schools around the world. Of its approximately 3,000 students, 65% are women and around 1,000 are attending on a scholarship. They also have the first campus in the world to obtain a LEED Platinum certification in all the buildings.

With CENTRO, Ms. Diez Barroso understood the importance and impact of education and how it can change lives. For 19 years she has been part of a group called – she is the only Latin-American woman in this group. Together with her colleagues from C200 they have taken part as speakers and mentors of female MBAs and PHDs of some of the most prestigious universities in the world. They usually speak to students about their experiences as businesswomen, giving them advice on career development and on how to maintain a healthy work-life balance. During her visit to those universities, she felt that although many women had outstanding academic credentials, they lacked some fundamental ingredients for success. She has always believed that being a confident leader is more than mastering the “hard skills” of business. It also takes soft skills like negotiation, communication, emotional intelligence, personal resilience, and networking, to name a few.

To teach more of these “life leadership” abilities, in 2017 she started another education project and founded Dalia Empower – a global lifelong learning project dedicated to supporting women in reaching their personal and professional goals – helping women to step into their full potential, feel confident with their power and achieve both their personal and professional goals. It is designed to help women entrepreneurs, women in the public sector, women in corporations, and women entering board positions. Dalia Empower also provides programs and tools for corporations to measure, implement and improve their gender and diversity policies.

Grupo Diarq has currently comprised 9 subsidiary companies (including CENTRO and Dalia), more than 600 employees, and has offices in Mexico and the United States.

Portfolio of services offered:

Dalia Empower aims to impact 100 million women in 10 years through our diverse education and potent platform. Dalia Empower is a 360-degree solution and has 4 diverse product offerings:

  • Education programs (Dalia Academy) – for both individuals and companies, in-person and online.
  • Community Services (We are Dalia) – such as mentoring, advisory, and networking.
  • Smart editorial content (DaliaNews+Media) – to inspire women & create awareness on diversity and inclusion.
  • Consulting services (Dalia Insights) – for organisations to get the proper data and be certified with the Dalia Gender Race and Diversity Index.

As a result of the pandemic and due to job losses and furloughs, many women were pushed out of the workforce and others voluntarily withdrew to act as caregivers. Many women have found themselves in need to start their businesses. Most are doing it with no previous experience and lacking crucial tools and entrepreneurial expertise.

Dalia has created diverse programs designed to provide the necessary advice, skills, and training to make women´s companies succeed and also, it has developed Dalia Scale Up,a full immersion acceleration program that aims to provide founders and early-stage start-ups with the tools and resources necessary to scale their business to the point where they can be funded by VC Funds. Dalia targets start-ups with female and mixed leadership, and it prioritizes traditional businesses that can scale with digital transformation.

The challenges and obstacles she encountered

Ms. Diez Barroso has always been very determined in her plans and what she has set her mind to. She has faced countless obstacles and people who didn’t believe in her or her projects. She stirred away from them and didn’t take NO for an answer (i.e. when she created CENTRO or Dalia). However, she has also been advised by her mentors and allies – who have proven indispensable for her goals. Also, the multifaceted and multicultural teams she has led have been key to attain success in her endeavours. She always says that nobody works for her, they all work with her towards a common goal.

Awards, Recognition, and Accolades

Her contributions to women, society, and its upliftment have been unparalleled. These contributions haven’t gone unnoticed. Some of the awards she has been honoured with:

  • National Women Award 2011 – National Chamber of Women (Cámara Nacional de la Mujer, A.C.)
  • Fundamental Personality in the World of Design Award, Noldi Scherck, 2014
  • Iberoamerican CIDI Award for Outstanding Entrepreneurial Career in Education, 2015.
  • Luxury Lab Global Award, 2016.
  • “Flame, Life and Women Award”, Autonomous University of Nuevo Leon, 2017.
  • “With Your Generous Hand We Walk Through Life Award”, Magen David Women Committee, 2017.
  • TU Awards (TU Magazine), Televisa Editorial Division, 2017.
  • Enterprising Women of the Year Award Celebration, 2018 
  • Gold Medal of Honour, AS/COA – American Society Council of the Americas, 2019.
  • 2019 National Award for Professional Excellence, National Chamber of Women (Cámara Nacional de la Mujer, A.C.)
  • 2020 NAWRB Commercial Leader Award. 

Her thoughts on the impact of covid-19 on Diarq´s market

Although the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have been far-reaching for all industries, they have fundamentally changed the real estate business. The demand for commercial real estate has and will be impacted by social distancing, space reconfiguration, layoffs and remote work.

Some industries will probably adopt hybrid working arrangements which will consequently change a company’s physical workspace needs. As a result, office space will still be in demand, albeit with different types of space requirements and amenities. While before the pandemic some businesses were looking for spaces with gyms, lounge areas, and meeting rooms, in the post-pandemic era companies might shift their demand putting a greater emphasis on eco-friendly buildings, worker safety, more efficient work plans that accommodate social distancing, indoor air quality, and technologies and a healthy environment. Older office spaces will have to adapt to these requirements or will become obsolete.

The blurring of work and personal life will also have an impact on residential real estate. Residential units will be attractive if they provide separate spaces where people can telework efficiently. Also, since more time will be spent at home, location and amenities such as fitness and in site services (dry cleaners, grocery shops, working spaces) will become increasingly attractive for tenants.

Her opinion on the importance of work-life balance

The need for work-life balance is more important than ever. Especially given the added blurring of lines between work and personal and the unpredictability and increased risk of burnout and depression that the post COVID era has brought about.

Finding a balance between work and personal is not a given– especially for working moms. One must make an effort to set limits, get organised, and carve out spaces in our schedules to spend quality time with our loved ones; work on our mental and physical health; think, recalibrate and regain our centre. Doing so gives us happiness and fulfilment, makes us feel proud of who we are, and gives us clarity as to the next steps we need to go forward. I believe that if we don’t give ourselves time to do the things that we enjoy with the people we cherish, we will not excel in either our personal and professional lives. Finding that balance also increases our productivity, our creative thinking, and our engagement in our homes, works and societies and more importantly our mental health.

Her advice to aspiring women entrepreneurs

I would advise women entrepreneurs to recognise their power, to never stop learning and acquiring new tools and skills, to seek mentors for guidance, to help and encourage other women, and to network and share their experiences with other women entrepreneurs. Dalia Empower is a global project where we help women move forward, work on those objectives and achieve both their professional and personal goals.

I believe that it is crucial that more women – together with our male allies – speak up and fight for gender equality, women’s promotion and equal pay. We need more women in decision-making positions and breaking ground in male-dominated industries. We also need to support and buy from businesses led by women.

Remember that nothing comes easy, especially in entrepreneurship. Be patient, work hard, believe in yourself, build a great team, pitch big, and don’t give up!