Laura Varela Fallas

Costa Rica continues to Trail Blaze in Gender Equality

Latin America is a region were gender equality seems to be a distant goal to achieve. From the early childhood girls are thought that men are more equal. And to be sure institutions are built to secure this perception. But the gender gap is closing at a slow but sure pace. According to a recent World Economic Forum study on the status of gender equality throughout the world Costa Rica moved up in the, Gender Gap WEF Index.

Costa Rica ranks 32 out of 144 countries in the WEF report, which measures the magnitude of gender disparities and tracks their progress over time. The organization supports its evaluation of a series of indicators in four areas: economic participation, educational attainment, political empowerment, and health and survival. Scores for each country range from 0.00, representing no parity, to 1.00, representing an egalitarian relationship between genders. Costa Rica obtained a 0.73 valuation. The feat flies on the wings of two factors: political empowerment and education. This is quite important in a continent where women seem to be an afterthought for politics.

Today’s success story is the product of several centuries of the militant fight by women in politics: business and professional life. Several world-class leaders built and continue to plant pillars upon which rests today’s gender equality in Costa Rica. These women were:

Emilia Solorzano Alfaro

First Lady from 1870 to 1882, as she was the wife of President Tomas Guardia. She not only threw her weight and influence in favor of opening access to quality education to women, but single handedly ended death penalty thereby placing Costa Rica among the most advanced nations of her time. 

Isabel Carvajal (Aka Carmen Lyra)

Acclaimed writer. Was born in 1887.  In the 1930s she joined the Communist Party and organized women workers and teachers into unions. She was exiled to Mexico along with other women political leaders and died there a year later. Isabel started the century-long fight for equal pay. 

Emma Gamboa

She was the first woman to become a cabinet member in Latin America. She was born in San Ramón in 1901, she studied to be a teacher at the old Normal School in Heredia and at Ohio State University in the United States. She promoted education for everyone and her textbook Paco y Lola, using Costa Rican subjects and themes was the standard reading tool in the schools. 

Laura Chinchilla

Born in 1959, emerged from a political family: her father, Rafael Angel Chinchilla, was a controller in the 1970s and 80s.  A National Liberation Party member she held posts as Minister of Justice and Vice President. Her administration advanced anti-crime programs and free-trade agreements, as well as one of her top-priority projects, an effort to create quality daycare centers for the children of working mothers.

Christiana Figueres

She was the first executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change,

In that position she oversaw the execution of the Kyoto Protocol and Paris agreement on Climate Change and while this international convention was weakened with the withdrawal of the US it still rules the process of fight against global warming. 

Then there is the new generation of women leaders that are todays standard bearers of the pioneers.  

Marysela Zamora

Creator of Nosotras Women Connecting, a platform to promote leadership in girls and women from Costa Rica, Latin America, and now Kenya. Nosotras has been featured by the United Nations as one of the top ten initiatives to be known and replicated around the world.

Jary Gomez Quesada

She is the golden media manager. With four successful media companies under her watch, Jary is revered by shareholders as the most formidable value creator. Companies under her management are the newspapers Extra and Prensa Libre, Extra-TV and Radio América

Marilyn Batista Marquez

Born in Puerto Rico where she excelled as a writer, Marilyn came to Costa Rica to transform the world of communications. Her professional deployment has modernized corporate and public communications earning her the admiration of her adopted country. 

Laura Varela Fallas

A young and rising corporate star who believes in environmentally sound development while seeking to deepen links with international markets for her group of companies that comprises architectural design; financing and placement of real estate projects; eco-development ventures and electronic betting.

Cynthia Castro

She is the selected World Economic Forum worldwide ambassador for gender equality. Castro obtained an undergraduate degree in Psychology at the University of Costa Rica (UCR) and a master’s degree in human development at FLACSO University in Argentina. She has been part of the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Shapers program, which executed a meeting with Pope Francis and Vatican representatives in 2014; Castro discussed ways to overcome social and economic exclusion, and she delivered a document to the Pope with conclusions regarding gender equality.

Castro now works as the social development director at Reinventing Business for All (RBA) and served on the Costa Rican government’s Social Innovation Board.