Maria das Graças Silva Foster: Woman who Chased her Dreams, Defying all the Odds and Norms

Maria das Graças Silva Foster

Life is full of obstacles and struggles. But there is no difficulty that stand bigger than your ability to resolve them. There are number of ordinary people who beat all the adds with their incredible drive, irrepressible desire, intense determination and consistent hard work. The story of a Brazilian business executive and chemical engineer Maria das Graças Silva Foster is one of those extraordinary examples we should learn from and her personal story has helped numerous poverty-stricken Brazilians to lift themselves up out of their insane poverty and hardships.

Maria das Graças Foster is the first female in the world to head the Brazil’s state-controlled oil and gas company Petrobras-Petróleo Brasil in Rio de Janeiro. She has been in the list of Time’s 100 most influential people in the world in 2012; she was recognized as the 20th most powerful woman in the world by Forbes Magazine and as the Most Powerful Woman in Business by Fortune magazine in 2013.

Maria was born in the impoverished shanty-town of Morro do Adeus, Brazil to a disciplined mother and an alcoholic father. She used to earn extra money by collecting cans, recyclable trash dumped in the streets and other bits of scrap metal to pay her school fees. She supported her studies as well as family by doing several odd jobs and kept herself from local drug gangs. Despite growing up through domestic violence and a town known for overpopulation, unhygienic condition, drug trafficking and extreme pollution, her story could have been lost in the ordinary list but she excelled, broke all the barriers in climbing the corporate ladder. She completed Bachelors degree in chemical engineering from the Fluminense Federal University in 1978, Masters Degree in nuclear engineering in 1979 and MBA in economics from the Getulio Vargas Foundation in 1999. She was hired as an intern by the oil company Petrobras and became the first female to lead the department of engineering.

She prefers to live a simple life, still lives in an apartment located in Rio de Janeiro’s Copacabana neighborhood with her family and travels by taxi and maintains a disciplined life taught by her mother.