Business Management

In Latin America social media and startups close the gender gap

It started on 3 June, 2015 in Argentina. The #NiUnaMenos (Not One Less) movement against gender–based violence has attracted since then more and more support and spread to different countries in Latin America. Defined as “a collective cry against machista [male chauvinist] violence”, the movement created by journalists, artists and activists in Argentina has conquered the social networks and the hashtag is now used also in Brazil, Peru, Mexico, Bolivia and Colombia to mobilise women demanding the end of domestic and gender-based violence. Year after year marches and protests are now organised in the continent with the use of this same hashtag.

The use of social media is also the main weapon of another strong feminist organisation in Latin America. The Brazilian NGO Think Olga was created in 2013 by the journalist Juliana de Faria with the aim of empowering women through information. Its first campaign Chega de Fiu Fiu (Enough with the Catcalling) wanted to show the traumas and the everyday annoyances that women have to suffer because of sexual harassment. An interactive map is available online where women can pinpoint and describe their harassment cases.

Two years later, in 2015, another campaign promoted by Think Olga used the hashtag #primeiroassedio (First Harassment) as a tool for women sharing their harassment stories and all the shame and guilt involved with it. “The tweets allowed women to gain control of their own history, and to recognise themselves as victims. It is the empowerment that comes with seeing oppression as such, and not ‘a part of life’. It is the first step towards change”, says Juliana de Faria on the NGO website. In five days, there were more than 82,000 tweets and retweets with the hashtag that became a trending topic in the country. By analysing 3,111 of these stories, the NGO calculated that the average age in which women/girls are first harassed in Brazil was 9.7 years old.    


Promoting female leadership

Last year, Brazil’s first female president, Dilma Rousseff, was removed from office in a setback for the feminist movement and its demands for change in the country. The new government established was an all-white, all-male administration that soon decided to end the Ministry of Women, Racial Equality and Human Rights created during Rousseff’s government.

If politically the country is not in its best moment for women, initiatives for economic empowerment are being set in place and especially in the tech sector. After finding out that only 13 per cent of startups in the city of São Paulo (an important tech hub in Latin America, as described in this previous IDG Connect article) have women as founders, a programme offering support, guidance and access to investment was created for innovative projects created by women.

“It is extremely relevant to value the presence and performance of women in sectors indispensable to the city of São Paulo. And innovation and technology have stood out as one of the most important sectors of the city’s economy,” a press release about the initiative named “Prêmio Mulheres Tech em Sampa” stated.

In Chile, the same concept has also been put in place. Startup Chile, the most successful public startup accelerator from Latin America, is looking for “globally minded female enthusiasts that want to begin their entrepreneurial journey”. Created in 2015, the pre-acceleration program The S Factory offers around US$14,000 of equity-free funding to help to get startups off the ground. To apply, at least one of the founders should be a woman 100% dedicated to the project.

“Although women have the same skills as men in Science & Technology, for some reason - which I believe is cultural and has to do with self-confidence and with the realities of each one within their homes - we, as women, make life and career decisions that go by the ‘traditional’ way. We all have different skills and strengths, they are all respectable and necessary, both in the traditional and technological fields, but our focus in Startup Chile is to look for those women who like technology and have the capacity [to do well], but are afraid to jump or to have found a difficult road. These are the women we are recruiting and empowering,” Rocío Fonseca, the young female Startup Chile executive director tells me.

Created in 2015, The S Factory is now into its fifth generation. Between 2015 and 2016, 85 prototype phase startups have been financed by the programme. “With The S Factory, Startup Chile is building role models of female-led startups for the future generations to follow and encouraging women to believe in themselves and go out to the tech world,” says the communications manager at Startup Chile, Catalina Brauchle, another young female adding energy and diversity to the Chilean team.    


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