RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – International Day of the Woman yesterday prompted a re-examination of the role of women in power in Brazil. Despite the country being under the care of its first woman president, as well as several other high-profile positions held by women, some say the distribution of gender in politics and big business is still far from equal.

President Dilma Rousseff and Maria Gacas Foster, President of Petrobras, Brazil News
Brazil's leading ladies - President Dilma Rousseff and Maria Gacas Foster, President of Petrobras, photo by Roberto Stuckert Filho/ABr.

Agência Brasil reports that for Rebecca Tavares, the UN Women’s representative for Brazil and the Southern Cone, the election of women presidents in Chile (ex-president Michelle Bachelet), Argentina (Cristina Kirchner), and Brazil (Dilma Rousseff) does not mean that the tables have turned for women in government.

“Women presidents are popular [at the moment], but women parliamentarians have not had such success. In Latin America, 22 percent of parliamentarians are women. I would not say that the success of women as presidents is an indicator that they have [equal success in terms of] access to political participation,” says Tavares.

Earlier this year, Maria das Graças Silva Foster paved the way for Brazilian women in business by becoming the first female CEO of a major part-public owned company, Petrobras. However, a 2010 study by the Ethos Institute and IBOPE indicated that just 13.7 percent of executives in Brazil’s 500 biggest companies were female.

At a UN Women event on March 6th called “Gender Equality for Sustainable Business,” the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, stressed the vital link between women’s economic empowerment and sustainable development ahead of the Rio +20 event in June, saying, “[We cannot] achieve sustainability—at a corporate or a global level—without empowering the world’s women.”

In the city of Rio de Janeiro, Martha Rocha was named the head of the Rio’s Civil Police in March 2011. Rocha is the fifth Civil Police Chief in five years for Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’s second largest city of 6.3 million.

Another prominent woman in the sports world is chairman of the Flamengo football club, Patricia Amorim. Amorim sits at the head of perhaps Brazil’s most popular sports team.

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