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How Female Talent Could Transform Emerging Economies

S+B: That reminds me of a quote from your book: Samara Braga, a financial markets leader for Ernst & Young in Brazil, noted that 40 percent of people working in financial services in Brazil are women, as opposed to 25 years ago when there were hardly any women in the field. She went on to say, “Of course, these women are not yet at the same level as men. But in 10 years they will be.” We have been hearing that in the U.S. for decades — that as the pipeline of women expands, women will naturally rise into the executive suite. But we are still waiting. Do you think it could actually happen in emerging markets?
HEWLETT: I think the jury is out. It’s not clear that the huge new flood of female talent coming through the pipeline will transform the reality at the top. Each stage has been a huge struggle. Women in the U.S. used to stall out at age 21. Now it’s probably 35.

Yet there are signs that emerging markets might be different. In India and to some extent in China, there are more women at the top of organizations. As Ripa noted earlier, [these countries have] new approaches to talent management because they have a blank slate — there are no legacy human capital models that are predicated on the life needs of a man with a wife at home. And we have never seen this kind of transformation of gender roles in economies with 10 percent growth.

RASHID: Brazil has a female head of state. The U.S. never has had one. So, who knows? Maybe there are leapfrog opportunities. We hope so.

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