Chile, Mexico Place Women at the Helm of Central Banks

With the two countries having named new banking chiefs, there are now five countries in Latin America with central banks led by women

March 03, 2022 | 02:00 PM

Mexico City — Mexico and Chile, two of Latin America’s emerging economies, now have women heading their central banks for the first time, during a year marked by inflationary pressures caused by the pandemic and the war in Ukraine.

Victoria Rodríguez took over as the head of the Banco de México in January, while Rosanna Costa became the head of the Banco Central de Chile in February.

Both central bank chiefs will not only have to face the challenge of fighting inflation, which is at its highest level in decades, but also, in the eyes of the region, will take on the challenge of opening up high-level decision-making spaces in monetary policy to women.

Expanding women’s power in monetary policy decision-making in the region will not be easy because the overwhelming majority of central banks in Latin America are headed by men, positions that have culturally and historically been viewed as “men only”.


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With Rodriguez and Costa at the helm of their respective countries’ central banks, there are now five female central bank governors in the region.

The banks of Mexico and Chile join the Central Bank of Cuba, the Central Bank of Aruba and the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority, which are headed by women, although they are small economies compared to those of Mexico and Chile.


The Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum (OMFIF) highlights in its 2021 Gender Balance Index that small island economies tend to have a good gender balance and a positive female bias.

Of the 31 Latin American and Caribbean countries with a central bank or monetary authority, only five will have a woman governor or president in 2022.

‘Do Women Have the Capacity to Lead a Central Bank?’

Rodriguez and Costa begin their mandates with similar backgrounds and challenges. Both are economists and much of their work experience lies in the field of public finance and budget management.

The two bankers come to their new roles at a time when interest rates reached a level of 5.5% in January 2022 in both Mexico and Chile, and after general inflation exceeded 7% in both countries. In Chile, inflation was the highest in 14 years last year, while in Mexico it was the highest in 20 years.

Read More: Mexico’s Inflation Seen Dropping Below 5% in 2022

Bloomberg Línea interviewed Verónica Artola Jarrín, who was governor of Ecuador’s central bank from May 2017 to June 2021, to learn from her perspective and experience why the inclusion of women in leadership positions in central banks is advancing at such a slow pace.

The former central banker said it is essential for women to occupy decision-making positions, and that when she was in charge of Ecuador’s central bank, she was very aware that, out of 120 central banks in the world, only 15 had women central bank governors, and she was one of that small group.


Artola Jarrín points to studies that show that it is necessary for women to be in management and decision-making positions, such as central banks and finance ministries, in order to make economic policies more inclusive.

“But it is also complicated, and there are some challenges,” says the former banker who is now executive director of Latinia Observatory for Latin American Studies.

“When I was at the central bank, in all of South America I was the only woman in that role, and I was the youngest woman to head a central bank. Although I did not feel any discrimination, I do believe that it was complicated to enter those spaces because they were considered men’s spaces, spaces for men over 50 years old.”

Verónica Artola, former head of Ecuador's central bank

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Following the nominations of Rodríguez to head the Banco de México and of Costa to lead the Banco Central de Chile, Artola says that the first comments she read and heard from some sectors were whether female economists would have the capacity to lead two important banks in the region in economic terms.


“Do they have the capacity? That is what is questioned. I feel that, unfortunately, we have to demonstrate double what I man could do, and a man wouldn’t be questioned”

Verónica Artola, former head of Ecuador's central ban

Although there are those doubts about the ability of women to direct monetary policy issues, Pamela Diaz Loubet, chief economist at BNP Paribas, says that deciding to raise the interest rate with such magnitude and speed does not depend on a gender issue, but on considering economic, financial and macroeconomic elements, which are equally analyzed by men and women.

In the case of the governor of Mexico’s central bank, Díaz Loubet said that there were several doubts regarding the bias she could face in the new composition of the board of governors, however, the new governor showed with the interest rate hike to 6% in February that she is committed to price stability.

“There is still a cultural element in all this lack of representation for women, although there is greater access for women in the financial sector, unfortunately it is still a sector that has certain characteristics that are prejudged as being not for women”

Pamela Díaz Loubet, BNP Paribas

Díaz Loubet said that a change is needed that would help to modify those stereotypes related to the idea that women cannot occupy the highest positions in the financial and banking sectors.


“Monetary policy has nothing to do with whether there is a female or male governor, monetary policy is something to do with fulfilling a mandate and regardless of gender. It looks at price data, Fed behavior, financial markets.”

Pamela Díaz Loubet, BNP Paribas

Translated from the Spanish by Adam Critchley

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