To mark the United Nations’ 2017 International Day of the Girl, 600 young women were selected to take over top jobs at various organizations around the world. Sindy Mosquera was one of them. As part of Plan International’s #GirlsBelongHere campaign, Sindy sat in on committee meetings, met clients and connected with some of the bank’s prominent female leaders, discovering that a leadership role as CEO of Banco Colpatria was within her reach.

 

By Shelley White

 


 

On October 2nd, 18-year-old Sindy Mosquera of Colombia got to realize one of her dreams — she became the CEO of Banco Colpatria, one of Colombia’s largest banks, for one day.

Sindy was given the opportunity to become the boss at a major financial institution — with 178 offices, assets of $22.3-billion and more than two million customers — as part of Plan International’s #GirlsBelongHere campaign. To mark the United Nations’ 2017 International Day of the Girl, 600 young women were selected to take over top jobs at various organizations around the world. This “CEO Takeover” was a way to prove that girls belong anywhere they choose and aspire to be, and to empower girls to believe their dreams are attainable.

Girls became lawyers, CEOs, politicians, journalists — roles where females are traditionally underrepresented. The idea of the Takeover initiative was to reduce (and ultimately tear down) the barriers that keep girls from achieving their dream jobs and reaching their full potential, including gender stereotypes, bias and discrimination.

After stepping into the shoes of the Banco Colpatria CEO, Santiago Perdomo, Sindy was able to attend committee meetings, meet clients and connect with some of the bank’s prominent female leaders. “I feel empowered,” says Sindy of her day as CEO. “And I want to empower other young women to feel the same way.”

When Santiago was presented with the opportunity, he jumped at the chance to participate in the #GirlsBelongHere program because he and Banco Colpatria want to show that girls and women can be empowered in their role as leaders. “We believe that investing in young people builds prosperity for the community,” says Santiago. “Girls must become visible in places of power and influence. By having Sindy take over as President of Colpatria for one day, we are sending a very clear signal to all Colombians that girls should be on every agenda. All girls must be free to dream and encouraged to lead.”

Santiago points out that in countries like Colombia, girls are often the most vulnerable group, especially when there is scarcity of resources. “This makes it challenging for girls to go to school and, as a result, many suffer discriminatory practices such as child marriage, domestic child labor, early pregnancy, violence, and discrimination.”

 

“Girls must become visible in places of power and influence. By having Sindy take over as President of Colpatria for one day, we are sending a very clear signal to all Colombians that girls should be on every agenda. All girls must be free to dream and encouraged to lead.”

 

Sindy is from Chocó, the largest Afro-Colombian district in the country, and one of the poorest regions in Colombia. She had the opportunity to submit a video application for the CEO Takeover program because of her volunteer involvement with Plan International’s activities in her own community.

A vibrant young woman who is equally passionate about math and social justice, Sindy points out that access to education is the greatest barrier for many women who seek to be leaders. “Surely this day will inspire hundreds of women in my region who are uncertain about their future due to a lack of opportunities,” she says. “Historically, women have not had the same opportunities as men. This condition is changing thanks to campaigns, such as this one, that raise awareness around gender inequality and help inspire women and girls.”

Santiago says they are also working inside Banco Colpatria to advance leadership programs for women in order to prepare and promote the female talent at the bank. “We want women to believe in their leadership capacities, and it’s a priority for us to help develop their skills to encourage their growth in our organization,” he says. “Gender inclusion is also a business imperative. It’s proven that organizations that have gender inclusion perform better. We see this in our organization as well. Gender inclusion creates a better work environment, helps us to better reflect our customers and creates a stronger relationship with our community.”

Santiago also encourages others to lend their voice to the cause. “It’s important for men to be champions of gender inclusion because regardless of gender, anyone can be an advocate for gender mainstreaming and the equitable treatment of all,” he says.

Scotiabank, Banco Colpatria’s parent company, has long been committed to achieving gender equality through its support of programs and initiatives aimed at the empowerment of women and girls, and young people in communities around the globe. On October 11th, Banco Colpatria and Scotiabank were recognized by Plan International for their participation in the #GirlsBelongHere campaign and their commitment to gender equality, receiving the Corporate Recognition Award at the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Campaigns like #GirlsBelongHere are important to move the dial toward gender equality, says Santiago, but he points out that girls also need resources, knowledge and power to overcome the barriers they face. That’s why he and Banco Colpatria presented Sindy with a new laptop, a one-year scholarship for English lessons and an ongoing mentoring relationship with Bibiana Roa, a female manager in commercial banking.

With memories of her special day still vivid in her mind and powerful ambitions for her future, Sindy has this message for business owners: “Trust in women, just as Colpatria has done. Women need the support of private enterprise and of society as a whole.”