Granddaughter to Televisa´s media mogul, Gina Diez Barroso takes us through her journey to finding her purpose in life and in business.
Gina has been a pioneer in the fields of arts and education for over 20 years. In 1990, she created Grupo Diarq, one of the most prestigious real-estate development and design firms in Latin America. In 2005, she founded CENTRO, the first university in Mexico City specialized in creative studies with a strong emphasis in business and entrepreneurship; and later on, in 2016, she founded Dalia Empower, a lifelong personal and professional learning platform for women enabling them to reach their full potential and own their power. She is the Mexican representative of W20 and of C200 (200 Women Business Leaders). She is an active philanthropist of women causes and education. She is the mother of five accomplished children.
IW: Being that your grandfather was the founder of Televisa – a Mexican mass communication and media company, the largest in Latin America and the Spanish-speaking world, how did you start your professional career path?
Gina: I started my career when I was 20 years old, working in the editorial division of Televisa. During the six years that I worked there, I ascended into an executive position in the editorial division and created “TU”, a publication that became one of the most important magazines for teenagers. However, since I always wanted to do something on my own, when I turned 26 years old, I left Televisa and began my career in real-estate development, founding my own business.
IW: What inspired your interest in real estate development and design?
Gina: Real-estate has constantly been my passion and I have always thought that it was a field I wanted to work on. I remember that when I was really young, I was frustrated because in Mexico we had amazing houses from the 20s, 30s and 40s that architects would simply demolish. I thought that when I grew up, I was going to save those houses and refurbish them. Later on, I founded Grupo Diarq, one of the most prestigious real-estate development and design firms in Latin America. It is currently comprised of 9 affiliated companies, employs more than 700 people, and has completed over 850 residential and hospitality projects in Mexico and the United States.
Q: Did your childhood inspire your entrepreneurship and passion for education?
Gina: My father and grandfather were my inspiration and role models. When I was 11 years old, my father died in a plane crash and therefore, I was brought up by my grandfather. My grandfather was an amazing person. He believed in television, communication, and satellites – I am talking about the 1930s, when nobody, literally, nobody saw their potential. He was an absolute visionary. He had so much love for Mexico and a firm commitment to giving back to the country, and particularly, helping those who were less fortunate. It was a blessing for me to have him and my father as role models!
Q: What was one of the most important lessons you learned from your grandfather?
Gina: I learned to fight for what I believe in and never take no for an answer.
Q: How do you express your creativity in your professional and personal life?
Gina: Every single day in every single way. I love to see what is missing or what does not work and try to fix it. I express my creativity in the way I work, in the way I act and the way I do business. Also, In the teams I lead, I always encourage creative thinking and innovation. That is how I operate.
As far as my hobbies, I like all kinds of sports and I love art, design, painting, collecting art and going to auctions. In my spare time, I love going to the theatre and exhibitions. Everything is related to creativity. I don’t see myself ever doing anything that is not creative. I also love the art of storytelling. When I meet someone that is good at it, I just love spending time with that person.
Q: You have five amazing children. Did they follow your career path in real-estate and/or entrepreneurship?
Gina: All five are creative and work in their own company. One daughter is a graphic designer in NY. She works for LVMH and has her own design company called NOUN, dealing with branding identity and design. My two boys are owners of Lemon Studios – the number one content developing media company based in Mexico and US. My youngest daughter, Ivana, founded a company called Story Place, an app that focuses on storytelling where ordinary people can share extraordinary stories. I love this company; it’s all about using technology for a good purpose. It is already working in over 50 countries. My children are all amazing!
Q: What advice would you give to those who aspire to be entrepreneurs and business owners?
Gina: I always advise them to find a purpose in their life, an outlet for their passion, and to follow their dreams. Success is not an easy path and one must enjoy the journey. I really believe one can achieve anything. At times the road might be bumpy but if you build resilience you can overcome the obstacles. Get together with others, nothing can be done alone, that is for sure. You need to bring together a group of people that believe in what you believe and make your project their project. If you achieve this, anything can be done.
Q: At 43 you wanted to leave a legacy in education for the younger generation of creative people and for your country. Is this what led you to found Centro University? Why do you believe this type of education is so important?
Gina: I always thought that the best thing you can give to anyone is the opportunity to have a career. When I was 43 years old, I thought I would give my money and my time to education. The more I looked, the less I was convinced I wanted to give my money only to philanthropy.
I was very frustrated to see how education was not evolving at the same pace and direction as what is happening in the world. Institutions are still teaching as if we have two brains: If you are creative, you go this way and if you are a person of numbers you go the other way. 60 percent of students graduating from high school now, will work in companies that do not even exist today! Seeing that there wasn’t a truly balanced education at the university level that would prepare students for the future, motivated me to start my own university.
Q: How did people react when you told them that you were starting a university?
Gina: When I went to speak with my mentor, he thought I was crazy. He said that “no one starts a university out of the clear blue sky” and stressed that I wasn´t an academic with a thousand degrees.
The first real obstacle was dealing with the authorities. Also, the business community didn’t believe that creativity was important. So, I hired a market analyst to do a study. The study predicted that the University wasn’t going to work. Knowing that I did not take that easily no for an answer, I decided to go forward with the project anyway.
I got together a diverse group of people in the team – creative thinkers, business people, academics -who were working not for me but with me, for my vision and my passion, which they made theirs. We fought hard. It took six and a half years of research and development. CENTRO has now been running for 16 years. We have graduated over 8,000 students and have 3,000 students currently enrolled. For five years it has been the best creative university in the country and it is the most difficult to get into.
Q: How do you compare CENTRO university to other universities? What do you do differently?
Gina: CENTRO promotes a very disruptive way of teaching. Compared to other universities that offer a four-year degree, we added 1,100 more hours of teaching on business and entrepreneurship to the creative curricula. When students graduate, they understand how to create business plans, how to do an elevator pitch, how to raise money and understand the legal aspects of owning a business, among other things. That is, we develop both sides of the brain, not just one. CENTRO is building a truly creative economy.
Schools are as good as their students, so we constantly follow up with our graduates. Most have their own business and are employing many others. Others work in the top creative companies. As you can see, we are interested in creating a culture of entrepreneurs. It is not often how the creative world works, so we are very happy with the outcome. We also believe in sustainability and, in this sense, I am very proud that we are the first full campus LEED Platinum certified university in the world.
Q: At 59 years old, why did you launch Dalia Empower? Do you consider Dalia Empower as a social impact business?
Gina: I’ve been a member of the C200 for 18 years. The C200 is a powerful international community of the most successful women in business, representing companies with more than $1.4 trillion in combined revenue and employing more than 2.5 million people. We help each other personally and professionally. The C200 is not just about being good at what you do, it’s about giving back to other women, particularly women in business. It is an amazing network of powerful women.
As a member of the C200 we were invited to the best universities in the world to speak with female MBA and PHD students about ourselves, our careers, our experiences and how do we balance our lives. I found that the women I spoke with were often outstanding in their academic skills and degrees, yet, they didn’t have the soft skills needed to succeed in the business world. I understood that I had found my purpose in education with Centro University and that I was going to dedicate my life to helping women reach their professional and personal goals and potential. This is what inspired me to launch Dalia Empower.
Additionally, six years ago I was invited by the Mexican Government as a representative of the country at the W20, the women initiative at the G20. It was then when I was certain that my next chapter in life was going to be dedicated to achieve gender equality in all fields.
Dalia Empower is most certainly a social impact business and doing very well. I believe that the way to break the cycle of economic disparity is through conscious capitalism: There can be profit in doing good.
Q: What is Dalia Empower?
Gina: Dalia Empower is a 360 degrees global education project that, through a powerful platform and interactive system, prepares women with the soft skills needed to succeed in business. In Dalia Empower we believe that women have the power and can do anything they want in life. We prepare from women entering the workforce, entrepreneurs and business women, to women in leadership positions, providing full immersion courses to prepare them for Board of Directors´ positions.
Q: What are your goals for the future?
Gina: I would like to see Dalia Empower continue building a global community for the promotion of the economic advancement of women. I also would like to see the implementation of our ambitious expansion plan growing in North America, LATAM and Europe.
What motivates your Philanthropy?
Gina: I don’t see a life without giving. One of our duties is to give back to the less fortunate. I always quote David Rubinstein from Carlyle Group when he states that “giving back is not always writing a check”. I believe that giving back is also giving time. It is like a boomerang, the more you give the more you get back.
At CENTRO we sponsor scholarships for 35 percent of the students (1,000 students). We believe that talented students should be able to study, even if they don’t have the money (in Mexico donations are not tax-deductible like in the United States). My biggest satisfaction is giving students the chance to be prepared and provide them with the tools necessary to succeed.
I finish saying this: “Don’t give someone a fish to eat, better teach him or her how to fish”.