Combating Gender Inequality in Costa Rica
28/08/2018 - Impact Hub

From gender pay gaps to street harassment, to sexual violence and femicide gender inequality is a global issue that needs our urgent attention. And after Latin American Impact Hubs chose this as the topic of our most recent Mash-Up, it became clear that this issue resonates in the region in a particularly deep, personal and political way.

The Mash-Up

Our global Mash-Up events aim to inspire innovators into action, and involve people from different places and industries to unpack urgent topics related to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As part of the most recent Mash-Up held this summer, 5 Impact Hubs including São Paulo, Curitiba, San Salvador, San Jose and Monterrey all rallied together to focus on SDG 5: gender equality.

During the event, the keynote speech was streamed live from São Paulo to participating Impact Hubs. In each location, every community welcomed a host of other inspiring speakers who each shared their own stories of discrimination, and discussed ideas on how to better these systemic behaviours.

Amidst all of the participants and inspiring conversations involved in the Mash-Up, we spoke to Monica Hidalgo and Molly Ewing from Impact Hub San Jose to give you an up-close insight into how this event played out, and what it could mean for the future of gender discrimination…

Spotlight: San Jose

As part of the Mash-Up, Impact Hub San Jose was treated to a series of presentations around gender equality, including inspiring stories from:

1. Priscilla Chaves; leader of the commercial strategy for Cognitiva.

2. Alejandra Arburola Cabrera; Executive Director of 10x, an advisor of political affairs and citizen dialogue.

3. Victoria Rovira; a transsexual activist and Global Shaper.

4. Christiane Pinto; a Google recruiter navigating her career as a woman of color in Brazil, whose talk was live-streamed from São Paulo.

Tell us about how your event kicked off…

The first to address the audience was Priscilla Chaves, who shared with us her experiences in various startups, and told us about how she built her own company in Africa; the difficulties she faced in a “world of men’’ and about the imposter syndrome, which has affected her in different stages of her life.

What was so inspiring about Priscilla’s talk?

She told us that her life’s purpose is to impact the lives of one billion people in the next 10 years. That’s pretty amazing. And to finish her presentation, she left us with the following phrase:

“In spite of that imposter syndrome, or feeling like your goal is unattainable, you just have to keep going.’’

Did you connect to communities beyond your own?

Yes. After Priscilla’s talk, a live video from Impact Hub São Paulo was streamed to continue with the common theme: gender equality. Watching this live video, we heard from Christiane Pinto who struggled a lot in her career because, besides being a woman, she is a woman of color.

Through the live stream she told us that she is more privileged than others, given that she studied in a private school which offered a more “neutral environment” for her. But one day she became aware of the reality of discrimination and began to feel the need to do something for those less privileged than her. She started a job at Google and saw, to her surprise, that only 5 other people of color worked there. This motivated her to start making changes.

The first thing she noticed was that there not only existed stereotypes of colored people, but of all sorts of individuals, and most people’s decisions are made based in this ignorance. During her talk, she proposed that we hold ourselves more accountable for the decisions we make, and remain conscious of the ways stereotypes can negatively affect them.

She spoke of the need for proactive action in the workplace and iterated that:

“Not being a racist isn’t enough. You have to be anti-racist.”

How do you think this translates to people’s personal lives?

Alejandra Arburola’s story demonstrates this quite well actually. She opened her talk by stating that she is a feminist, going on to explain why she is a declared feminist, and how people start to create a false judgement of you when you tell them this.

Her breaking point as a feminist came when she was studying in Europe. There, she discovered that her younger sister in Costa Rica, became pregnant aged 14. Alejandra thought that her sister had only 2 options: continue with her pregnancy, or have an abortion. This second alternative was frowned upon by her mother so her sister decided to continue with the pregnancy.

When Alejandra returned to Costa Rica she began to feel constantly harassed. But instead of waiting for this to change, she started a campaign against street sexual harassment.

Eventually, this went on to form a consensual law in 2016. This just shows that the personal truly is political.

Victoria Rovira, a transsexual activist, also spoke to this effect. She told us that people often think that being transsexual is an illness, when really it is just a life choice. Like the other speakers, she has also suffered discrimination; firstly, for being transsexual and, secondly, for being a woman. Her own mantra is “I am not defined by what others think of me.” This is a perspective that we can all learn from.

What was the biggest takeaway from the Mash-Up?

Each of the speakers gave us new ideas about our current society, and an invitation to do something different. The biggest lesson learned is to always remember that change begins with yourself.

If you don’t like something, do something about it.

Don’t wait for someone else to do it for you.

If you’d like to stay connected to our community and hear about the latest events, discussions and innovations helping to build a more sustainable world, stay tuned to our blog and keep an eye on our Twitter and Facebook pages.


The Latin American Mash-Up held in 2018 worked to achieve the following SDGs: