4 Percent Isn’t Enough; We Need More Women’s Leadership in Latin America

Research proves that companies dedicated to diversity and inclusion are stronger competitors in the global economy. And while retaining and advancing top female talent has quickly become a worldwide business imperative, in South American countries like Brazil less than 4 percent of board chairs belong to women*.

In a focus group conducted in Brazil by Smith College Executive Education and Fundação Dom Cabral (FDC), Brazil’s leading business school, longtime cultural constructs emerged as the greatest barrier to women’s career advancement. The lack of male participation at home, coupled with a lack of support for work-life balance creates a near-impossible environment for Latin American women to pursue careers at the top. It’s a challenge for women to define their lives’ goals, especially when having a career and having a child exist as very separate paths. So what’s being done to change this and to advance female talent in Latin America?

Most importantly, women are taking it upon themselves to challenge the status quo. Moving from mere tolerance to a place of acceptance in the workplace, more and more women in Latin America are stepping outside of the stereotypical role of desirable wife and homemaker to be acknowledged and respected as competent leaders of their organizations. Equally important, women are coming together to create programs and groups to support their journeys as women leaders within male-dominated trades.

Educational institutions are also stepping in by building courses and programs to meet the needs of women advancing in management ranks. Answering Brazil’s call for top female talent, FDC and Smith College Executive Education partnered to launch the FDC-Smith Women’s Global Leaders Program—the first women’s-only leadership program of its kind in South America. Designed as a collaboration between FDC and Smith, the FDC-Smith Women’s Global Leaders Program combines Smith’s signature all-women learning environment with FDC’s expertise in global executive development.

Beginning on September 7, 2014, 35 of Brazil’s top female senior executives, directors, and managers will embark on a six-day exploration of their personal leadership narrative. The program will cover topics ranging from barriers to advancement to the development of strategic vision and personal brand, focusing on the unique challenges female leaders face doing business in Latin America.

Campus Aloysio Faria


FDC-Smith Women’s Global Leaders Program
September 7 – 12, 2014
FDC Aloysio Faria Campus in Nova Lima/MG, Brazil



While there are still too few women in prominent positions in business, research is changing this scenario. A 2011 study from Catalyst.org showed that companies with the most women board directors outperform those with the least women on return on invested capital by 26 percent**. From this standpoint, women’s leadership isn’t just necessary from a diversity standpoint, it’s essential for business, too. Is your organization taking advantage of this virtually untapped source of talent? What is your organization doing to invest in its female talent in order to remain competitive?

Limited space is still available in the FDC-Smith Women’s Global Leaders Program. To learn more about the program or to reserve seats for the female leadership at your organization, visit the program website or email execed@smith.edu.


* Catalyst.org 2013 Women Board Chairs in the Americas study
** Catalyst.org 2011 The Bottom Line: Corporate Performance and Women’s Representation on Boards

About Smith College Executive Education

Smith's signature all-female learning environment ignites the power of women and provides an exceptional networking forum where participants share insights and perspectives with a cohort of talented and high-powered peers.
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