How a female commercial engineer in Paraguay is overcoming barriers

2018 YLAI Fellow Bibiana Dipeo, the director of Alimentando Para el Futuro (Feed4Future) in Paraguay, is empowering her community after more than a decade in the financial sector, by innovating new ways to reduce malnutrition and poverty.

The YLAI Network is celebrating Bibiana’s tenacity in overcoming various barriers she has faced on her way to commercial engineering success, her hard work in the financial sector, and her passion for giving back to her community.

Here are her responses to some questions about her work.

What is your background and what inspired you to pursue your work now?

I’m a commercial engineer, with more than 10 years of experience in the financial sector, I have an MBA and I was trained in social innovation.

My parents inspired me to pursue a business career. I always admired their work ethic, I grew up helping them in the family business, and I have always been fascinated by them because even though they had no college education, they had a natural talent for business.

Can you describe the mission of Alimentando Para el Futuro?

Alimentando Para el Futuro empowers low-income families by giving them the skills and knowledge to reduce child malnutrition and improve overall quality of life.

Alimentando Para el Futuro aims to address the problem of malnutrition and lack of access to food through workshops, mentoring sessions, and hands-on learning. Our project supports and trains women in food production and allows low-income families access to a healthy diet, reduces food insecurity, and generates an alternative income.

What are some of the challenges you have faced?

We live in an interconnected world, with more heterogeneous societies and more skilled workers. If you want to create your own company or work for someone, being modernized is not optional and is not limited to the technology field only. In all areas, new advances and innovations are emerging; having a university degree is not enough anymore.

Fortunately, there are many digital tools available today that help us to gain knowledge and thus keep a more highly qualified profile.

Are there many other women you see working in the financial sector? 

The number of women in the financial sector is still very low, especially in the highest positions. Women have the skills and capabilities and can add a lot of value in this field.

Progress in this area has been made over the years, but still, there is much to do. Women still have to face many challenges, but also have more tools to succeed. I believe that more women will be joining the financial industry in the coming years.

How are you seeing women overcome barriers and rise above poverty in Latin America?

The most effective tools for women to get out of poverty are to:

  • Democratize access to education.
  • Generate equal opportunities between men and women, no matter the industry.
  • Develop and implement action plans to increase women’s participation in the workforce.
  • Reduce the gender pay gap.
  • Promote women’s participation in leadership positions.

Do you think it is important for women to pursue education and professions in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics), and why?

It is definitely important. Affordable STEAM education could fuel the achievement of gender equality in leadership positions, generate more innovation and entrepreneurship in companies and educational institutions and, above all, bring technology closer to women.

How have YLAI and the YLAI Network helped you in your professional development?

Being part of YLAI has helped me find new ways to continue building a more equal society, and it has allowed me to develop alliances and networks in many different countries. If you have not applied to YLAI yet, apply. It could be one of the best experiences you could ever have.

Do you have any piece of advice for your fellow YLAI members who are seeking to make a difference?

Changing the world alone can be very challenging, but doing it as a team, it is doable … and more fun.