An Exercise in Empowerment

This evening I attended a very cool event organized at a friend’s rooftop. The hostesses were two of my girlfriends who have recently graduated from a top MBA program in Europe and are now trying to launch a business aimed at increasing women empowerment in Brazil. They assembled an interesting group of female advisors, ages 25-35, of various nationalities and sectors: corporate, government, social entrepreneurship, consulting, environmental engineering, finance, that are all interested in the topic, and shared their ideas with us, asking for our feedback.

We all had very different insights about the challenges women face in this world, from difficulties managing raising kids with a full time job, lack of female (or even male) mentors, hard time accessing financing (even banks have prejudice against landing to women), lack of supportive business network, challenge in asking for a raise, outright discrimination in hiring / promoting, being outside the male bonding circle with the boss, machismo culture, other women who use their sexuality to get ahead, and self-doubt/fear and other personal characteristics that prevent women from taking the leap they should be taking in their careers. It was a very interesting discussion that also generated all sorts of possible solutions and initiatives. I felt really motivated after participating in this exercise, which made me once again reflect on the fact that I should be doing more about this topic.

To my mother who thinks I am a feminist who will not get married, I have to say that I care about these issues not because I am feminist or because I hate men or think that women are better than them.  I, rather, have 2 very specific things that move me to action:

1) Empowerment – I want to help people believe more in themselves and get better and more successful and women happen to need much more help in this realm, and

2) Fair treatment – I can’t stand discrimination, stereotyping (that goes beyond the joke) or ignorance and I think the issue of gender is being treated too often based on ancient concepts instead of looking at modern day reality and needs. Again here, there is too much discrimination against women in Brazil in my opinion in terms of promotion and access to equal career opportunities and I want this to change.

Here, I said it. Now what?

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