Two top businesswomen in Colombia, a country that has just over 50% of its women in the workforce, said Monday they attribute their success to hard work and commitment.
Although gender equality is far from a reality in Colombia, a number of Colombian women have defied the stereotypes and risen to highly regarded positions in business.
According to the most recent statistics from Colombia’s national statistics agency, DANE, a mere 53.2% of Colombian women participated in the labor force last trimester – 22.2% less than men. Of those women within the labor force, 45.2% actually have work compared to 69.2% of men.
But in spite of these seemingly pessimistic figures, a report on gender and development by the World Bank in 2012 states that Colombia has a better participation rate than many other Latin American nations and Colombian women have better access to higher level positions, something that is still a challenge in many wealthy nations.
“The country has the steepest increase in women’s labor force participation in the region, giving it one of the highest participation rates in Latin America. Women there are well represented in managerial positions and in ﬁnance – the glass ceilings notoriously hard to break through even in many rich countries,” stated the report.
A recent ranking of the top 100 Latin American businesswomen by the magazine “Latinvex” reflects this trend with 18 Colombian women featured on the list. In comparison, the region’s largest economy, Brazil, only accounted for 11 of the 100 ranked businesswomen.
Among the women featured on the list were Colombians Maria Claudia Lacouture of Proexport and Marta Clark of Adobe Latin America and Caribbean. Both women spoke to Colombia Reports to share their reactions to being included on the list, their views on Colombian women in business and to give an insight into how they got to where they are today.
Clark and Lacouture attributed Colombian women’s relative success to hard work and commitment. Lacouture believes that Colombian women make good leaders because they can “combine femininity, discipline, responsibility” and are “very committed to each project we undertake,” and Clark commented, “I believe we grew up with the conviction that if we work hard, we will get far.”
Marta Clark joined Adobe systems in 1998 and has made her way up the career ladder and now holds the title of Vice-President of Adobe Latin America and Caribbean. Clark claims that much of her success is owed to “dreaming big” as a teenager, when she set herself the goal of living abroad. She pursued this dream and her career began with learning English at a university in the United States.
“I started by learning English as a second language in a university in the U.S., then I moved to Los Angeles where I had family that helped me … I met my husband and moved to Seattle, Washington. While there, I found an opportunity where they were looking for somebody to speak Spanish and manage Latin America, so I got the job!” explained the Vice-President.
Maria Claudia Lacouture started out in 1996 as an intern for Colombian company Proexport, which promotes business and tourism in Colombia on an international level. She gradually worked her way through the company to become President, after taking on a number of other roles, including Market Intelligence Analyst, Marketing and Foreign Trade Consultant, Director of Tourism in the U.S. branch and Vice President of the Country’s Brand Organization.
Lacouture now leads a team of professionals seeking to generate business opportunities for Colombian entrepreneurs abroad and also promotes the best products and destinations in Colombia to attract foreign investors.
“Last year we achieved 66 investment projects from 15 different countries, in addition 1,500 Colombian companies were able to do business in 84 countries and through the international promotion strategy we encouraged more than 3 million international travelers to visit Colombia,” said Lacouture.
“All women have the ability to be successful in business,” was the message Lacouture wished to share with aspiring Colombian businesswomen and both Clark and Lacouture insisted that unyielding determination is the way to the top.
“Get the knowledge you need to be there. Create a plan and start executing that plan,” advised Maria Clark, whereas Lacouture gave the explicit instructions to “insist, persist and never give up.”
- Interview with Marta Clark
- Interview with Maria Claudia Lacouture
- World Development Report 2012: Gender Equality and Development (The World Bank)
- Mercado laboral por sexo: diciembre 2012 – febrero 2013 (DANE)
- Press release from Latinvex