Ten Brazilian female tech influencers you should know

On International Women's Day, we list some of the women making a difference in the technology landscape in Brazil.
By Angelica Mari, Contributing Writer
1 of 10 Angelica Mari/ZDNET

1. Cristina Palmaka, president, SAP Brazil

One of the most recognizable female senior executives, Cristina Palmaka leads the Brazilian business of software giant SAP. She tries to instill a better gender balance within her employer: about 35 percent of all staff in the country are female, 25 percent of which in senior roles.

"Gender is something that we look at, it is easy to measure and we tackle that we several projects such as a female business network and I personally do a lot of mentoring," she says.

According to Palmaka, it is important to ensure an inclusive environment in other aspects and the company is part of LGBT committees and also focuses on hiring people with autism.

"The diversity debate needs to be wider than gender, which is of course an important issue. It definitely can't be something that is applied only to the leader: it needs to be pervasive across the entire organization," she adds.

2 of 10 Angelica Mari/ZDNET

2. Paula Bellizia, chief executive officer, Microsoft Brazil

Leading the Brazilian subsidiary of one of the largest technology companies in the world, Microsoft Brazil chief executive Paula Bellizia is also heading programs around women's empowerment and representation within the company.

Bellizia often mentions that she intends to leave a legacy and improve the current situation in terms of gender representation in Brazil IT. Her goal, she says, is to address the diversity issue within Microsoft's population in Brazil, which will in turn make a positive impact on the market overall.

3 of 10 Angelica Mari/ZDNET

3. Cristina Junqueira, Co-Founder and VP of Product, Marketing and Operations, Nubank

Cristina Junqueira, Co-Founder and VP of Product, Marketing and Operations at Brazilian fintech sensation Nubank is the only Brazilian (and the only female) among the company's three partners. Nubank issues no-fee credit cards, with interest rates up to five times below the market average and basic payment accounts via a mobile-only approach.

Since its inception in 2013, the company has over 400 staff and its latest funding round reportedly values the company at more than $1 billion, catapulting it into the realm of technology startup "unicorns."

4 of 10 Angelica Mari/ZDNET

4. Monica Herrero, chief executive officer, Stefanini

Monica Herrero has become the chief executive for the Brazilian operations of Stefanini, the country's largest IT outsourcing firm, in 2012. Graduated in Mathematics and with specialization in Business Administration, Herrero has worked for the company for 20 years.

Currently, about 35 percent of Stefanini's staff are women, 29 percent of which leadership occupy positions. Herrero expects to increase female representation significantly over the coming years. She has mentioned that the balance between men and women in managerial positions is directly related to the generation of qualification opportunities, that is, skilling people within the company to progress through the ranks and that includes women as well as men.

5 of 10 Angelica Mari/ZDNET

5. Gina Gotthilf, VP of Marketing and Growth, Duolingo

Gina Gotthilf is the VP of Growth at language learning app Duolingo, one of the most downloaded education tools in the world, with over 200 million users. Gotthilf leads the growth product team and is in charge of marketing and communications activities in the company.

Prior to joining Duolingo in 2013, she represented Tumblr in Latin America and led he company's strategy for international growth and also founded Global Ginga, a consulting business focused on helping US tech companies and startups set foot in Brazil and other Latin American markets.

6 of 10 Angelica Mari/ZDNET

6. Luciana Caletti, co-founder and chief executive officer, LoveMondays

Luciana Caletti set up employer review and jobs site LoveMondays in 2014. Love Mondays provides user-generated company reviews, ratings and salary content, as well as job listings for more than 80,000 employers in Brazil. After receiving several awards, being accelerated and receiving venture capital funding to grow, Caletti's company got acquired by US jobs and recruiting marketplace Glassdoor in 2016.

On being a female senior executive in Brazil, she says: "We don't see many female founders of tech startups, unfortunately, and in Latin America there are even fewer than in the US. I would love to see more female founders starting great startups."

7 of 10 Angelica Mari/ZDNET

7. Paula Paschoal, director general, PayPal

Paula Paschoal was appointed PayPal's general director for Brazil in 2017. She is responsible for expanding local business and for relationships with regulatory authorities, working closely with the parent company in the US in the exchange of global best practices. She has been working for the company since 2010.

At the time of her promotion to the company's top role in Brazil, PayPal said the appointment highlighted the appreciation of women in the company's local subsidiary, where 50 percent of executive management positions are held by female executives.

"It is very motivating to be part of a company's team that truly encourages gender equality and values the role of women around the world. The success of the company is also a result of the way it enhances the dedication of each person, always respecting the individuality of each and the diversity of thought within the group, " Paschoal commented at the time.

8 of 10 Angelica Mari/ZDNET

8. Graciela Kumruian, chief operating officer, Netshoes

Netshoes is the largest sports and lifestyle online retailer in Latin America. Founded in 2000, it has quickly gone from small high street retailer to Brazil's biggest online startup success story. When the company started closing funding rounds prior to its IPO last year and began to grow significantly, it undertook a review of its entire technology operation led initially by Kumruian, who today serves as chief operating officer.

During the time Kumruian was in charge of IT, problems in the infrastructure were addressed and the technology operation was unsourced. To fine-tune Netshoes' internal organization during its growth, she also split the technology function into hardware, and software, to better handle the growing list of improvements required by shareholders. This in turn facilitated the introduction of several innovations that followed, such as customer experience improvements and advanced data analytics, all of which are intrinsically linked with her current operations remit.

9 of 10 Angelica Mari/ZDNET

9. Camila Achutti, co-founder and chief technology officer, Mastertech

Camila Achutti is a technology entrepreneur leading businesses such as innovation consulting firm Ponte 21 and technology education company Mastertech. While it is a commercial enterprise, the project also seeks to address the gender gap in the information technology industry as well as skills scarcity, by providing training immersions and bootcamps across areas including coding, UX and agile methodologies.

She also spearheads several initiatives around promoting gender and social inclusion through technology in Brazil and can often be seen speaking at events focused on the theme.

10 of 10 Angelica Mari/ZDNET

10. Iana Chan, founder, PrograMaria

Iana Chan is a journalist turned technology activist through her NGO PrograMaria, which offers coding training for women. In 2015, the project received backing from a startup fostering initiative from the São Paulo Mayor's Office and has since partnered with large technology companies such as Intel and CA Technologies to deliver its technology education programs, in addition to the hundreds of women it has already trained.

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