WIA looks to Latin America… A Few Minutes With Roberta Paffaro
By Michelle Pelletier Marshall, Women in Agribusiness Media (April 27, 2021)
Roberta Paffaro is the international market development director with CME Group responsible for driving new business in commodities. She had been a journalist with PUC-Campinas for nearly a decade before switching gears when she heard of the available job at CME Group in Brazil while working on her MBA in economics.
Paffaro travels to neighboring countries – Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay – lecturing about risk management to producers and agribusiness professionals. She has seen an uptick in women being involved in agribusiness as well as in leading the decision-making, particularly in introducing ag innovations and implementing sustainability measures. Paffaro and three of her friends – Andrea Cordeiro, Mariely Biff, and Ticiane Figueiredo, who all work serving the agribusiness sector – “realized that we needed to give voice to these women to show how they were engaged, not only inside of the gate, but outside of the gate, and how to get more young women interested in these areas and involved in making a difference in this sector.” With this, they penned the book in 2019 called Women in Agribusiness: Inspirations to Overcome Challenges Inside and Outside the Gate that highlights 50 case examples of women who are making a difference in the Latin American ag sector.
As Women in Agribusiness expands its global network and community into that area – starting with our Latin American Executive Panel webinar on May 20 – we thought it apropos to get a view from someone with “boots on the ground”.
1). What potential do you see in the Latin American agribusiness marketplace for women to become more involved?
The reality is that agribusinesses are still mainly handled by men, outside the gate. Inside the gate, women are gaining space, mostly by leading alongside their husbands. We are gaining voice, and I think there has been a lot of movement in Brazil. There are women in the north of the country who have an Instagram group which is very popular, and another woman who heads up what is called “Agroligadas” that represents farmers who want to communicate from the farm to the city. This group helps them make that connection. Though we are gaining voice, we have a way to go. We need to convert more space, though it will take time but we have a growing number of women leading farms, in executive agribusiness roles, as commodity traders and more. We don’t need to keep talking about the differences between men and women. We should focus on how they complement each other because if each person is encouraged to bring forward his or her own skillset, then everyone gains.
In March, we celebrated International Women’s Day. It is important to remember that we are still facing challenges, but we definitely have developed skills to face them. Women in agribusiness are us, you, and me. Regardless of the country, city, or region where we are located, we can make a difference. As I always say, together we are stronger.
2). You’ve had the chance to meet many successful women in agribusiness during your travels. Can you give examples of those who have provided inspiration?
Yes, the first is Norma Gatto, a farmer from Mato Grosso, which is in the heart of Brazil’s soybean production. She was suddenly widowed as her husband was murdered, and found herself with three little children to raise and a lack of knowledge of farming. Instead of selling the land, she decided to learn everything about the business and assume a leadership role. It was a challenge, but she went from tragedy to overcoming. Now she is one of the biggest producers of soybeans, corn, and cattle with four farms. Her sons work with her to oversee it. Her main message is: “Do not compare yourself to anyone, but only to yourself. Look at your life trajectory and how much you have grown professionally since you started.”
Another example is Tereza Cristina, who is Brazil’s Agriculture minister, and an entrepreneur and agronomic engineer who applied her knowledge in politics. She has opened new markets to Brazilian agribusiness exports, supporting smaller producers and also developing public policies focused on the area. Her message to women in agribusiness is to keep learning and studying as it is the key to succeed.
Last, but certainly not least, is Teka Vedramini, who became the first president of the Brazilian Rural Society. Teka is a cattle producer in São Paulo state, but she spends the majority of her time in the city. During her life – dedicated to agriculture – she heard too many stories of women overcoming prejudices and becoming protagonists of their own lives, which she said made her stronger and more resilient in her actions. As a natural leader, she is dedicated, hardworking, and is making a difference in her role, even while facing all the pandemic challenges.
3). As one of the first named members of the WIA Latin American advisory board, what are some of goals you’d like to see?
We need to think that there is no frontier so when we talk about the presence of women, their participation – we can learn from each other. We need to focus on connecting women from different parts of the world, and bringing their experience and expertise together so we can share that, because when we work together, we can amplify our efforts and then there are no frontiers. I do believe this connection is pretty powerful and helpful for everyone, and I look forward to bringing more Latin American women into the Women in Agribusiness community – through event participation, webinars, and WIA Meet Ups – so that their voices and messages are recognized and their knowledge shared.
ABOUT ROBERTA PAFFARO
Roberta Paffaro is director of International Market Development, Commodities, Latin America, CME Group, a position she has held for more than a decade. She specializes in agribusiness, teaching risk management courses in agricultural commodities with a focus on marketing analysis and hedging. Paffaro is a certified speaker with the National and International Agribusiness Congress. Prior to her position at CME, she was a journalist. She also is studying for a master’s degree in agribusiness in FGV-SP.
Paffaro also is a guest professor at Brazilian Universities, an advisor to the National Congress of Women in Agribusiness, a member of the World Association of Female Professionals, and a member of the WIA Latin America Advisory Board. She is a columnist for Canal Rural, Agro S/A magazine, and Ohio Journal.
Additionally, Paffaro is co-author of the book, “Women in Agriculture: Inspirations to Overcome Challenges Inside and Outside the Gate", and mentor and creator of AgroTraders.