Foreign Policy Blogs

Brazil’s Women Leaders on Top of the World

The way to become a top CEO in Europe or the US has often come from societies that promoted the top achievers in schools and universities into positions of great influence and great wealth. With hard work and luck a person of normal means could often get into high positions, very few can achieve this, but the opportunities were made available. In Latin America, the limited resources in many education systems made it even more difficult to punch above ones own economic status and position in society to become a person with great expectations. Position and wealth in a hypercompetitive society gave little to no opportunities for average citizens to go beyond the status they were born in, and almost no opportunity for those to reach the status of a CEO of a major company, or the President of Brazil.

Two incredible women that must be mentioned here is President Dilma Rousseff, who was once a victim of assaults by Brazil’s past military government to become the President of the country. Another astonishing person and the recently appointed head of Petrobras, Maria das Gracas Foster will be made the CEO of one of the largest oil companies in the world. Foster was announced as the next CEO of the company after running one of its most profitable divisions of the company over the last few years. Foster’s 34 years with the company and her recent leadership of her division during one of the most difficult and exciting economic and regulatory periods in Brazil’s economic history lead her to the position. Foster, who has worked with President Rousseff in the past, is delegated with expanding Petrobras’ output and profits, taking charge of access to new oil deposits founds in Brazilian waters and with growing the company during Brazil’s still viable economic boom.

Foster grew up in a working class suburb of Rio and ended up studying Chemical Engineering. She worked her way up in the company over her 34 year career and demonstrated her skills in dealing with company issues and government agencies, having a lead role in almost every division in the company since 1978. Past working relationships with the current President Dilma Rousseff lead President Rousseff to support the appointment of Foster to the head of Petrobras. It is likely that beyond Foster’s qualifications, the tenacity and symbol of a working class hero becoming the head of the 5th largest oil producer in the world will not be lost on those young women who are working hard to punch above their weight and their position in society to become the next CEO in Brazil and throughout Latin America and abroad. The number of inspirational leaders taking Brazil into the future is an example for every country in the world of what is possible for anyone to work for their best self in their career and personal lives. For more information on Foster please see as well as the article here.



Richard Basas
Richard Basas

Richard Basas, a Canadian Masters Level Law student educated in Spain, England, and Canada (U of London MA 2003 LL.M., 2007), has worked researching for CSIS and as a Reporter for the Latin America Advisor. He went on to study his MA in Latin American Political Economy in London with the University of London and LSE. Subsequently, Rich followed his career into Law focusing mostly on International Commerce and EU-Americas issues. He has worked for many commercial and legal organisations as well as within the Refugee Protection Community in Toronto, Canada, representing detained non-status indivduals residing in Canada. Rich will go on to study his PhD in International Law.

Areas of Focus:
Law; Economics and Commerce; Americas; Europe; Refugees; Immigration


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