Growth, Inclusiveness, and Women's Economic Empowerment in Brazil

Brazil has witnessed an unprecedented rise of women to economic and political power. Latin America's most populous country has a female president, Dilma Rousseff, and women hold 26% of her cabinet seats. The CEO of Petrobras is the only female head of a big oil company worldwide. In a world where only 21% of the senior managers are women, in Brazil, women make up 27% of senior ranks at the country's leading companies. Twenty percent of the country's billionaires are women, while the global average is just 10%. Brazil also has a higher proportion of women in the labour force- 59% compared to countries such as France (52%) or Britain (57%).

But has Brazil's progressive social policy made growth more inclusive so that all women share in this remarkable transformation? Women's average monthly salary is only 65% of that of men. Almost half of employed women in metropolitan areas receive less than a minimum wage. Even with the same schooling, the number of women returning to work is lower than men. Women are over-represented in informal employment, where they do not have social security coverage. Most of Brazil's 7 million domestic workers are women. Wealthier women have prospered, partly because it is easy for them to hire working-class women for child care and domestic work. Black women face even more disadvantages.

This project will investigate whether Brazil's growth has contributed to women's economic empowerment. Through a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods, researchers will examine how access to productive opportunities (often precarious and in the informal sector) and social policy can improve labour outcomes, along with feelings of empowerment and self-worth, for women. They will also determine the importance of women's participation in labour markets and the conditions in which their participation takes place.

Research will be conducted in three regions characterized by different growth strategies:
-the northeastern region and its garment industry in Agreste Pernambucano;
-the northern region at the Aluminium Industrial Pole in Barcarena, Belém do Pará; and,
-the southeastern region in the traditionally male-dominated construction sector in metropolitan São Paulo.

The researchers will ensure research uptake through dialogue with policymakers in seminars and meetings specifically planned to present results. They will present at events where SOS Corpo - Feminist Institute for Democracy (SOS Corpo - Feminista) regularly participates, such as the National Council on Women's Rights. They will also engage with Brazil's women's movement, which has a significant voice in policy circles.

Project ID


Project status


Start Date

Friday, September 27, 2013

End Date

Friday, November 27, 2015


24 months

IDRC Officer

Robino, Carolina

Total funding

CA$ 589,500


Brazil, South America, North and Central America, France


Employment and Growth

Project Leader

Maria Betania de Melo Avila


SOS CORPO - Instituto Feminista para la Democracia

Institution Country


Institution Website