Bloomberg News

Brazil Women More Ambitious Than U.S. Counterparts, Study Shows

December 16, 2011

Dec. 15 (Bloomberg) -- Brazilian women are more ambitious than their U.S. counterparts and aim to attain top jobs, a report by the Center for Work-Life Policy shows.

At least 80 percent of college-educated Brazilian women aspire to top-level positions, compared with 52 percent in the U.S., and 59 percent of Brazilian women consider themselves “very ambitious,” compared with 36 percent in the U.S., according to the study. Twenty-eight percent of women with a college degree earn more than their husbands in Brazil, less than the 39 percent of U.S. women with a degree that earn more than their husbands.

The study, which will be presented in Sao Paulo today, drew on an online survey and interviews with more than 4,000 men and women with at least a bachelor’s degree equivalent in Brazil, Russia, India, China and the United Arab Emirates.

Quickening economic growth and rising costs of living have propelled Brazilian women to aim high in their careers, said Ripa Rashid, executive vice-president at the New York-based non- profit research group. While growth has slowed this year as the European debt crisis deepens, unemployment is at record lows and some Brazilian cities are experiencing full employment.

“ Brazil’s economy has been doing really well, so there are opportunities for growth that are unparalleled and unprecedented,” Rashid said in a phone interview from New York on Dec. 12.

The Center for Work-Life Policy analyzed surveys from a minimum of 1,000 people in each of the BRIC nations and at least 200 in the U.A.E. in October 2009, as well as surveys of 2,952 college-educated people in the U.S. in February 2010. The study was sponsored by five companies -- Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News, Booz & Company, Intel Corp., Pfizer Inc. and Siemens AG.

Female President

Gross domestic product growth in Brazil, the world’s second-largest emerging market after China, will be 3 percent this year after a 7.5 percent expansion in 2010, according to Banco Bradesco SA. Unemployment fell to 5.8 percent in October, a record low for the month, according to the government statistics agency.

President Dilma Rousseff, Brazil’s first female president, is a much-needed role model for women, Rashid said. Rousseff’s victory marked a milestone for a country where only one of the 68 companies that form the Bovespa benchmark stock index is run by a female executive. Rousseff named at least eight women to cabinet posts and has made female empowerment a key objective in her government.

The study found that the biggest barriers women face in advancing their careers is the lack of mentors and the need to care for elderly parents.

“In Brazil, they are much less likely to have senior-level relationships, which is critical to advancement,” Rashid said.

Untapped Resource

Women hold 29 percent of senior positions in privately held companies in Brazil and are chief executive officers of 11 percent of large companies, compared with 20 percent and 3 percent, respectively, in the U.S., the study says. Among privately held companies, 59 percent have women in their ownership structure, greater than the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development average of 32 percent.

As skilled workers become scarce in Brazil’s labor market, women represent an untapped resource that can supply talent to support economic growth, according to the study. Sixty percent of university graduates entering Brazil’s labor force are women, and the rising cost of living means that more women will begin working in the next few years.

Those who make more than their husbands are encouraged to keep that fact within the family circle. While male chauvinism isn’t explicit in Brazil, most men are uncomfortable with their wives bringing home bigger paychecks, Rashid said.

“We found that men are proud that their wives work, in general, most of them don’t want others to know that she earns more money than he does,” she said.

Elderly Care

Sixty-nine percent of the women in the survey help shoulder financial costs for taking care of elderly relatives, compared with 48 percent in the U.S. The financial support averages 13,000 reais ($7,000), or 23 percent of their annual income, according to the study.

--Editors: Adriana Arai, Jonathan Roeder

To contact the reporter on this story: Adriana Brasileiro in Rio de Janeiro at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Helder Marinho at

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