Laura Varela Fallas

Rising Women Leaders in Costa Rica and the Rise of Environment-Friendly Economies

The resignation of Laura Chinchilla, former President of Costa Rica to the candidacy to become the first woman to preside the Inter-American Development Bank underlines the rise of women leaders in Costa Rica. Escalating the commanding pyramid has not been easy but it is now a reality for women in Costa Rica.  According to Tico Times and other reputable publications, half the top leadership in Costa Rica is made by women. These leaders include:

  • Laura Chinchilla who not only became the first woman to be elected president of Costa Rica but is an accomplished social analyst.
  • Lary Gomez Quesada, General Manager and Director of Grupo Extra (Diario Extra and Prensa Libre newspapers). In 1992 became part of the Group Extra. stations: Radio America Radio 780 MHz and 850 MHz Carthage.
  • Rosa Martinez who lives in San Isidro de Chacarita, in the province of Puntarenas. She entered the world of longline fishing five years ago. After six months at sea she became a true sensation. Her command over the natural course of fishing groups; their mating customs and their resting places allows her not only to direct tourist to the best catches but also to teach them respect for nature and biodiversity. Her commanding leadership is respected worldwide among environmentalists and tourists alike.
  • Laura Varela Fallas: CEO Grupo Varela; She presides a conglomerate of medium sized companies catering to diverse growing activities such as real estate development projects, architectural services, and internet gaming.  Ms Varela-Fallas developed her business acumen  at early age and  is considered to be a promising entrepreneur.
  • Jeannette Pérez, Tourist Fishing businesswoman. She returned to Costa Rica from the United States with her two sons, following a divorce. To support her family, she bought her first tourist fishing boat. Today she is the uncontestable leader of this activity. Jeannette has been participating in the Action Plan of the National Platform of Sustainable Large Pelagic Fisheries facilitated by UNDP through its Green Commodities Program,

Costa Rica’s achievement is the result of a carefully crafted development strategy launched 150 years ago after experiencing a bloody and devastating civil war.  In

the aftermath the army was abolished. Security was trusted to newly minted national police. The savings in public resources was deployed in education. For over 100 years the country thrived on agriculture particularly on exports of coffee and sugar. But by the end of the 20th century these commodities did not generate enough employment opportunities for the nation to develop. Cost Rica then turned to the promising albeit nascent eco friendly economics. Realizing that the country’s comparative advantages derived from nature the choice was clear: the source of wealth was the environment. And the march to move away from polluting energies to eco friendly energies began. Today 90% of energy comes from renewable resources such as hydro, Eolic, biomass and solar. Natural reserves are huge and well kept; biodiversity protected, and eco-tourism contributes 7% of GDP.

This development approach easily rode on the backs of women who enthusiastically entered education in the 1960s and turned into environment protectors in the 1980s. To be sure, women spearheaded environment development laws at the end of the 20th century. Today they lead most forward-looking development spaces.