EconomyInvestingVoices of women leaders: experiences towards equity

Voices of women leaders: experiences towards equity

Fighting against the limiting beliefs that society imposes, preparing and assuming work with discipline, are part of the learning that has led them to be part of the percentage that changes history.

It is no secret that the challenges in terms of gender equality continue to be great in Colombia. Despite the path traveled, the gaps in terms of employment opportunities, salary and work and personal balance continue to affect mostly the female gender, which according to DANE is 42.9% of the economically active population.

A recent report from the Adecco Group’s Equality Observatory reflects that the Covid-19 pandemic has increased these gaps and ensures that, according to the European Foundation for the improvement of Living and Working Conditions, the slowdown in economic growth has increased the risk that gender equality will lose priority on the agenda of Member States and stakeholders, reducing the effectiveness of actions and measures taken before the pandemic.

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For its part, the BCG survey entitled “Caregivers Survey 2020”, conducted with 3,055 working parents in five countries (United States, United Kingdom, Italy, Germany and France), shows that women continue to be – as before the crisis – those who spend the most time on housework and childcare, with 15 hours a week more than men.

And while that happens in Europe, the reality of Latin America is not very different. According to the Aequales PAR Ranking, in Colombia the figures are usually below the average for the region. While at the Latam level 51.9% of companies have a gender equality policy, in Colombia the figure is 47%. According to the most recent DANE report on the Participation of Colombian Women in the Labor Market, the difference in the average income of men and women is 12.1%, that is, for every 100 pesos that a man earns, one woman earns 87.9 pesos.

Beyond the numbers and data that confirm that the task of equity and inclusion remains enormous, on a daily basis, women in all industries and sectors break stereotypes and, coupled with policy and awareness efforts, become inspiration for others. Ahead of the March 8 commemoration, eight women from different sectors shared their perspectives on their gender role in work environments and those lessons that have led them to achieve success, understood not only as personal and professional development, but also also as the emotional balance and the satisfaction of the accomplished duty.

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Overcome challenges and stereotypes

For Abby Daniell, public sector program manager for Amazon Web Services, the biggest challenge she’s had to overcome is learning about a new industry: cloud computing. “I took the challenge seriously, learning is something that never ends during one’s career and we should not be afraid of learning new things.”

And it is no secret that STEM careers have been dominated by men. “However, there are different efforts from the government, the private sector and the UN to have more women who participate and are interested in areas of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM for its acronym in English) from a young age and thus achieve better job opportunities by reducing the gender gap ”, says Daniell.

In this regard, Marta Forero, COO of UBITS, the largest business training platform in Latin America, assures that inequality is also a pandemic. “We continue to have a very high gender gap and things are changing very slowly. I believe that we need more policies and awareness to break down the barriers that prevent the full participation of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics ”.

Some of these leaders also agree that achieving balance in all female roles is one of the biggest challenges. “At one point in my life, being able to multiply myself to attend to the trades of being a mother-daughter and carry out all activities fully was a great challenge,” says Guiomar Jaramillo, General Manager of GJ Comunicaciones and pioneer of Public Relations in Colombia . In the same sense, Marcela Zapata, Executive Director of Spring Professional Colombia, assures that “the greatest challenge has been to achieve balance between my personal life and my work. Simultaneously exercise the role of mom, plus the role of head of a company, in a demanding business such as consulting ”.

Although most of these women do not clearly identify that being a woman has opened or closed doors for them, since they start from the basis of believing in equal opportunities and the ability of each one has achieved with preparation and discipline, the truth it is that they do identify that in some sectors they have had to make greater efforts to achieve leadership positions.

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For Tatiana Garcés, leader of the Baker McKenzie Employment and Compensation practice area and the first woman to lead a law firm in Colombia, “sometimes I have had to row harder to achieve recognition or appreciation and even to be heard. ; but with tenacity and perseverance I have succeeded. On other occasions, some characteristics of the genre such as intuition and empathy have helped ”. Likewise, Juliana Sguerra, Managing Director & Partner of BCG in Colombia says that “since I became a consulting partner, the fact of being a senior woman has begun to open doors because there are not many of us. I don’t think that being a woman has closed doors for me as such, it has suddenly made me have to try harder ”, she concluded.

For Pilar Amorocho, manager of Sándwich Qbano, “the important thing is to avoid that it is still considered rare to see women in managerial positions and to carry out equality policies where the presence of women is also in senior positions in companies.” Breaking stereotypes and continuing to climb job positions to reach C levels is part of the credibility challenge that must be overcome in some sectors. In this sense, Tatiana Garcés from Baker McKenzie assures that “the participation percentages are best in the services sector; but that they are better does not mean that we are well or close to having equity. Although, in firms like Baker Bogotá, women lead, 6 of the partners are men and 7 are women, this is not the reality of many of our competitors. Women are more in intermediate positions and do not reach members or leadership positions ”.

Juliana Sguerra of BCG affirms that “consulting was born as a male-dominated industry, but global firms have realized that women are fundamental when it comes to reaching the best talent and that in solving problems for our clients it is very important to have diversity of opinion and creativity. Regarding the financial and insurance sectors, they have also been traditionally male-dominated industries, but globally we are seeing an important change in mentality to promote diversity and it is already beginning to be reflected in the numbers, however, at the board of directors level representation is not at the level it should be and there is room for improvement ”.

For Ana María Moreno, Deputy Manager of Services at Casa Magna, the largest distributor of robotic electrical appliances in Colombia, “there is a stigma on our ability, especially in this business where I am in, which is so masculine. It is assumed that women are for marketing, which is where I have encountered the majority, however, day by day the tradition changes ”. Along the same lines, Juliana Sguerra assures that “women have a tendency to be self-limited: we believe that we cannot do something because we do not appreciate our abilities. For this reason, sometimes we are less willing to take risks, get out of the box and pursue an opportunity that presents itself ”.

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Likewise, Martha Forero from UBITS reflects on the fact that “oneself creates invisible barriers that prevent us from reaching certain goals and precisely, in that change of mindset I work every day and I try to get the people around me to do so”, as a fundamental component to walk towards equity.

Tips for Achieving Leadership Positions

Abby Daniell

Amazon Web Services Public Sector Program Manager:

Create a list of everything you have accomplished in your career and another of everything you want to do. Add a star next to the items you are willing to do right now.

Determine how you can improve your skills to achieve the goals that you are not ready to tackle today. Take advantage of online courses like those offered at

Guiomar Jaramillo

General Manager of GJ Comunicaciones

Discipline and permanent study are the basis of professional success, put your effort into it. In my field of work, it is also vital to always be very well informed.

Tatiana Garces

Lead Partner of Baker McKenzie’s Employment and Compensation area

Seek out cooperative networks and work generously as a team to empower other women.

If you are going to have a partner, choosing a good teammate or teammate is essential.

Juliana Sguerra

Managing Director & Partner de BCG

Build a vision of what you want to be, identify what motivates you so that this is the engine to work towards the goal.

● You have to take more risks, take calculated risks and not be afraid of failure. If you don’t dare you will never know if it would have been possible to achieve what you wanted.

Ana Maria Moreno

Casa Magna Services Deputy Manager

Work on yourself, take care of yourself and let that extend to others. Do not lose heart since life always gives one back what it gives.

Marta Forero


Preparation, study and effort. Reaching executive positions requires being in constant evolution in order not only to reach them, but also to become good mentors of the people who are starting.

Trust. Believe in what you do and in the preparation you have. We are not a different species. We have the same capabilities as men.

Support among women. The greatest barrier to success for leaders is competition, criticism, and negativity from other women. Do your co-workers a favor and offer support, not criticism.

Find a mentor to help you grow as a person and professional.

Be authentic: People need to see who you are.

Pilar Amorocho

General Manager of Qbano

Trust your abilities, it is not easy to be in high leadership positions, but if you have clear goals, the preparation, the curiosity to update, to innovate and the passion not to give up, you will get where you want.

Marcela zapata

Executive Director de Spring Professional Colombia

Work on what you are truly passionate about. Not for a salary but to enjoy work, what you do on a day-to-day basis. Be persistent, disciplined, and focused on your goals.

In an increasingly technological and globalized world, skills related to the female gender such as empathy, inspiration and motivation to others are of greater importance, as revealed in a report published by BCG called “Women are the X factor in new ways of working ”, however, the Par Ranking says that according to the Global Gender Gap Report of the World Economic Forum 2020, said gap“ is still 31.4%. This means that, if society continues the current course, achieving equal opportunities between men and women will take approximately a century ”.