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The Role of Women in Latin America’s Economic Recovery

Main Stage



  • As highlighted by Flavia Santoro in her introductory remarks, ProColombia is a government entity with links to the Ministry of Commerce, Industry & Tourism, whose role is to promote Colombia as an attractive site for foreign investment and tourism, as well as a potential sustainable energy provider for the world. 
  • ProColombia has a high level of women in its workforce and in leadership positions, in particular. This has been an intentional outcome, given the current administration’s focus on the inclusion of women in key leadership roles. ProColombia is working—just like PepsiCo Latin America under Paula Santilli—to promote female participation, increase diversity, and reach equity throughout its workforce. 
  • Opening the interview with Santilli, Charity Wallace shared that research shows that if women participate more equally in the economy, global GDP could increase by 26%—or $12 trillion—by 2025. 

“In Latin America, women could add an estimated $2.6 trillion to GDP by 2025 if the gender gap is bridged. Yet despite recognition of the opportunity that women represent, on virtually every global measure, women are more economically excluded than men,” Charity Wallace.

  • Santilli shared her love of business, problem-solving, and teamwork in discussing her path to becoming CEO of PepsiCo Latin America. She spoke of the importance of being influenced by her mentors—all of whom were male—and cited their encouragement, guidance, and honest feedback on opportunities for improvement. One of the things that has surprised Santilli most during her career is being met with disbelief or surprise when telling people that she is the CEO of PepsiCo Latin America. This has sparked her desire to normalize women in positions of leadership. 
  • Santilli is using her power to close the gender gap within PepsiCo, using clear targets: by 2025, PepsiCo must have 50-50 gender equality. To achieve this, some areas of the company are hiring up to 70% women, and its Ready to Return program sees women who left the workforce entirely due to maternity leave get their jobs back. Meanwhile, PepsiCo’s Inspira project provides mentoring and training to get more women into leadership positions.
  • In discussing her book, The Power of Empowerment: Women Building Latin America, Santilli discussed the fact that women don’t, but should, self-promote. She stressed the importance of men being champions of women in order to help close the gender gap and achieve workforce equilibrium.

Key takeaways & next steps:

  • Women are key to driving Colombia’s economic development. Action must be taken to inspire women to follow their business and career plans. Whether starting a business or working for a large corporation, women must be pushed to strive for success so they can become agents of prosperity and change. 
  • It’s crucial to include women in every aspect of business, especially during the economic recovery from COVID-19.


Session Speakers