It is impossible to overlook Brazil's emergence on the world stage, or the steady domestic economic growth that pushed Brazil to become the sixth largest economy in the world in 2011. In the last decade, this growth has brought 40 million Brazilians into the consumer middle class, reduced income disparities, and increased socio-economic inclusion. Equally historic, women are increasingly taking leadership roles in Brazil's booming economy.
Meanwhile, in the political arena, Brazilians have elected their first woman president, Dilma Rousseff, who in turn populated almost a third of her cabinet with women. In February 2012, she appointed a woman to serve as CEO of the country's largest company, the energy conglomerate Petrobras.
In the private sector, women are similarly taking on key positions, including GE Brazil's new president, Adriana Machado, and Standard & Poor's managing director, Regina Nunes. American women are also assuming leadership positions in Brazil, with the recent appointments of Donna Hrinak as president of Boeing Brazil and Grace Lieblein as president and general manager for GM Brazil.
Small and medium enterprises represent another area in which women in Brazil are gaining ground. According to a 2010 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor study underscoring the link between entrepreneurship and economic growth, Brazil now has one of the largest number of women entrepreneurs in the world. Examples of the entrepreneurial spirit abound, including Cheiko Aoki, president of Blue Tree Hotels, and Sonia Hess da Souza, president of Dudalina. They have been leaders in developing iconic brands in Brazil.
Bilateral cooperation between the United States and Brazil on women's advancement has also grown. Most prominently, in 2010, Secretary Clinton signed the U.S.-Brazil Memorandum of Understanding on the Advancement of Women, which has promoted bilateral exchanges in science, technology, engineering, and math, as well as entrepreneurism and public policy.
Brazilian entrepreneurs and executives are applying their business acumen to creating opportunities for the next generation of highly qualified women through their participation in the Women Corporate Directors (WCD) group. The WCD, comprising chief executive officers, chief operating officers, and director-level executives, was established in the United States by women executives in 2001 to support and expand the women executive community through "leadership, diversity, education, and best practices in corporate governance." The organization boasts more than 1,400 members serving on roughly 1,550 boards in 42 chapters around the globe. The WCD Sao Paulo membership, under the leadership of Heidrick and Struggles partner Ana Paula Chagas, is an outstanding interlocutor with the U.S. Mission in Brazil, routinely contributing ideas for bilateral engagement on women's issues and dialoguing with U.S. government visitors on expanding our engagement with businesses in Brazil, including recent roundtable discussions hosted by U.S. Ambassador to Brazil Thomas Shannon and Department of State Counselor Cheryl Mills.
On March 1, the U.S. Consulate General in Sao Paulo hosted a breakfast meeting of the WCD to deepen the U.S. Mission's engagement with this extraordinary group of women and to highlight U.S-Brazil efforts in promoting women's empowerment. Acting Sao Paulo Consul General William Popp gave a presentation on the rapidly expanding U.S.-Brazil bilateral relationship, including cooperation on women's issues, especially with regard to promoting women in science and innovation. In the discussion, participants pointed out that Brazil's economic emergence, as well as the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games, are casting much-warranted global attention on Brazil. Above all, they emphasized that the rise of women in key leadership positions and their continued economic empowerment is laying a broad foundation for Brazil to assume greater international leadership in the 21st century.
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