Interview: Gina Diez Barroso (Zenith I Chapter)

Gina, at the Zenith of WPO

My purpose is clear, and I found it through the WPO, says Gina Diez Barroso, the only Women Presidents Organization Zenith member in Latin America.

The WPO’s Zenith members run businesses with a gross annual income of more than $50-million, and meet in person three times a year. Along with that, Gina is a member of two G20 women’s organizations and runs social investment companies, conventional businesses and philanthropic organizations. 

So, what is that raison d’être that Gina unearthed during a training session for Zenith members? It is to give women the tools to discover their own purpose, whether it is being a CEO or a housewife, by teaching them life skills, says Gina, who lives and works in Mexico City. 

By life skills, the businesswoman means the abilities that are often called “soft skills”. She disapproves of this term, saying that there is “nothing soft” about being able to effectively communicate and negotiate, lead a team, mentor others, adapt to changing circumstances, think critically, and manage conflict.

Gina’s quest to help other women find that one special thing that makes them tick is backed by years of experience, in business and life. She started her first business in the 1980s when she was just 26. 

Young, and with six years of experience in the editorial section of Televisa, a prominent TV and cable operator in Mexico, Gina founded Diarq, a combined real estate development, architecture and design services company. Today, Grupo Diarq, a holding company with eight subsidiaries and two offices in the United States, employs more than 600 people and is one of the most prestigious real estate development and design firms in South America. 

Gina is also the founder and president of CENTRO, a university in Mexico that combines instruction in creative studies with a strong emphasis on business and entrepreneurship. Furthermore, she is the founder of the Diez Company, which specializes in lighting design, manufacturing, and export.

“I dreamed big from the beginning,” says Gina. “I always say women need to dream bigger. When they complain that their projects don’t get funding, I ask, ‘Are you pitching strongly?’ Many women don’t dream, or pitch, as big as they can.”

That’s why Gina started Dalia Empower, a global initiative created to unlock women’s soft and hard skills.

“I would speak to women who were MBA graduates, or graduates from Harvard (University) or MIT (the Massachusetts Institute of Technology), and they were afraid they were not going to make their mark on the business world. It wasn’t because they didn’t have the academic skills, it was because they needed life skills: negotiation, personal branding, leadership, how to work with men.”

Gina studied environmental design despite her mother’s belief that women didn’t need academic education. She lost her “very academic” father, to whom she was very close, in a plane crash when she was 11, and was left with the feeling that she had to prove herself from then on. 

“I was seen as a difficult child because I would never take no for an answer. I have come to realize that it was the best label I could have. My determination has been important in making my businesses happen,” she says.

Gina joined WPO about seven years ago, at the encouragement of friends in another international women’s business group. She says her experience has been “very wonderful and useful”. Few women in the world run enterprises or groups of enterprises at the level that Gina does, and she says it is encouraging to be able to tap into the Zenith group’s shared experience.

“There are only two Zenith chapters, about 40 women, and mine is a very diverse group. We are in very different sectors and from very different places all over the world. Only a few will understand the particular pressures we have. I can ask for whatever I need from them, and I get very different perspectives back,” she says.

With all her many accomplishments, it is still her five children that make Gina smile the most. Each runs their own business, and they all live within their means and with a sense of responsibility to other people and to the planet that makes Gina proud.

We’re proud to have you among us, Gina!