This December, the BMW Foundation Responsible Leaders Network will gather in Mérida, Mexico, for the 6th World Responsible Leaders Forum entitled “Connecting our Community.” In this series leading towards the Forum, Responsible Leaders from Mexico will present their diverse perspectives on their home country – their inspirations, challenges, and opportunities to work towards a more sustainable, peaceful, and just future. Laura Garcia is one of them.
What are you known for?
Laura Garcia: I am known for my leadership on philanthropy and women's rights.
Who is your most famous relative?
Laura Garcia: My great-grandfather, Pedro Lascuraín Paredes. For a brief moment during the Mexican Revolution, in 1913, he became President.
Is your work related to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the UN 2030 Agenda?
Laura Garcia: My work is related to many of the SDGs because it involves supporting community development, gender equality, and protecting natural resources in Mexico. The work of Fondo Semillas involves supporting women-led grassroots groups to advance gender equality and environmental rights. We work mostly in rural areas and small, marginalized communities in Mexico where our focus area is essential for the development of those communities.
In what ways does your work contribute to the improvement of the country?
Laura Garcia: Although there have been important improvements, Mexico is still far behind in gender equality measurements. Gender equality is key to improving society in general. Without gender equality, Mexico will not be able to advance and prosper. My work contributes to bringing about cultural change so that women can exercise their rights. For this to happen, civil society is essential in pushing for changes in law and changes in cultural stereotypes.
How do you inspire Responsible Leadership?
Laura Garcia: By example. Leadership is about exercising power for the greater good and with clear accountability. Leaders should be able to provide a clear vision, a clear path for implementation, and reliable feedback loops. Finally, leaders should be able to reproduce these dynamics in different levels of their organization. I have always been passionate about justice and believe that my leadership focuses on fairness and justice. I believe these are essential components of responsible leadership.
"I envision a country with less fear, where we can focus our resources and energy on making people’s lives better, instead of the current struggles for security."
How do you envision Mexico in 2030?
Laura Garcia: I envision a more egalitarian and more lawful society. We currently spend too much time and effort being afraid of crime, and then being afraid of our police and our courts. I envision a country with less fear, where we can focus our resources and energy on making people’s lives better, instead of the current struggles for security. I especially envision a country with less sexual violence, where women have effective decision making about their lives.
What is the most urgent challenge in Mexico? Who can solve it?
Laura Garcia: The most urgent challenge in Mexico is impunity and lack of justice. I do not think it is a challenge that can be solved by a particular person, since its solution depends on everyone, on society in general. Violence in the country has been normalized, and because it is normalized, the state has not responded effectively. Politicians and state bureaucrats are not held accountable; the problem of security is not analyzed with scientific rigor in news outlets, by opinion leaders, or by the government itself.
Laura Garcia CoudurierLaura Garcia Coudurier lives in Mexico City. She is the executive director of Fondo Semillas, a nonprofit organization that promotes gender equality and environmental rights. In her free time, Laura loves to hike and run. She also calls herself a foodie, who enjoys having dinner with friends. Laura participated in the Responsible Leaders Forum Latin America in Merida and is a member of the BMW Foundation Responsible Leaders Network.
What is the essential leadership lesson from Mexico?
Laura Garcia: That leadership matters enormously. The recent history of Mexico shows that the lack of political leadership has dire consequences for the whole society. Recent history also shows that selfish people, or those who represent a narrow group, cannot provide the needed leadership for a country with long-standing problems.
With regards to the World Responsible Leaders Forum, how can a global community like the BMW Foundation Responsible Leaders Network bring about positive change?
Laura Garcia: We need to learn about good practices elsewhere for solving our major challenges: impunity, inequality, inefficient health and education systems. I think that the BMW Foundation has a great opportunity to bring together leaders from different regions and sectors of society to discuss current global problems. These problems need to be analyzed collectively and from an intersectional viewpoint. The BMW Foundation can help foster networks of discussion about global problems that in turn influence better decision-making in the work and individual lives of the participants of this network.
"Mexican culture is characterized by a strong social and family life, hardworking people, and creative solutions to everyday problems."
What is a sensitive topic that will be difficult to talk about with foreigners?
Laura Garcia: Probably the most sensitive topic today is the state of the current government and administration. After a huge electoral victory, the new President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is facing an enormous wave of criticism. At the same time, he still has the support of many, but society in Mexico is becoming more and more divisive on this issue, and talking about the current political context in Mexico is, in my view, getting more and more sensitive.
What is your personal take on Mexican culture?
Laura Garcia: Mexican culture is characterized by a strong social and family life, hardworking people, and creative solutions to everyday problems. The development of Mexican national identity is based on symbols such as food, family, solidarity, and in some cases religion. Mexican society has very strong traditions, but there is also a mix of a modern, globalized culture taking in and sometimes even conquering some of its traditions.
What is the worst cliché? And why does it survive?
Laura Garcia: The worst cliché is that Mexicans are lazy and drunk. Among the OECD countries, Mexico is at the top of number of working hours. Although this is, unfortunately, neither a healthy standard nor linked with productivity, the fact of the matter is that Mexicans, to survive and prosper, need to work very hard.
What is your favorite Mexican dish that participants of the World Responsible Leaders Forum can look forward to?
Laura Garcia: My favorite Mexican dishes are mole and chiles en nogada. Mexico has a sophisticated and extensive culinary culture; these dishes are a good example of the diversity of ingredients across my country. I always recommend eating a warm tortilla filled with salt, it is simple and delicious.
A penguin walks through the door wearing a sombrero. What does it say and why is it there?
Laura Garcia: The penguin wants to make history as the source of the first ever penguin taco!
The interview was conducted by Edna Martinez Quintanilla.