Maria da Gracas Foster, (58), will be head of Brazil’s largest corporation, Petrobras as of next February. This is the first time that the Brazilian oil corporation among the largest in the world will have a woman as CEO.
She will succeed Jose Sergio Gabrielli who was named by former President Lula da Silva and has been on the job for seven years.
A chemist by profession, she has been in the company for 32 years and since 2007 is Petrobras Executive director for gas and energy business. She was spotted by President Dilma Rousseff who wanted to have her in a first line post.
Married three times, with children, of humble backgrounds she paid her way through university. With a strong personality, Ms Foster has repeatedly stated she is contrary to quotas for women in jobs but “accepts no restrictions for the fact of being a woman”.
Dilma Rousseff wanted to have her as cabinet chief, but at the moment Lula da Silva convinced the incoming president to name Antonio Palocci, a former Finance minister who was later forced to resign because of corruption allegations.
The president also had her name in mind for the Petrobras job for quite some time.
Ms Foster will have the enormous responsibility of exploiting the huge pre-salt hydrocarbons deposits that can convert Brazil into one of the world’s main oil producers.
“I’ve always worked to help my family, my mother and my children and to pay for my studies. Grit means all for me. I’ve never been afraid of working or jobs”, Ms Foster was quoted.
Current CEO Gabrielli's replacement has been rumoured for months, with talk of an expected Cabinet reshuffle fuelling speculation about his departure. The Boston University-trained economist had been at the helm of Petrobras since 2005.
During his stint, the company found the so-called sub-salt region, the biggest oil find in the Americas in more than three decades. He also guided Petrobras through the largest-ever share offering of some 70 billion dollars late in 2010.
Gabrielli very close to Lula da Silva is forecasted to run for governor of the state in Bahia in 2014.
The Brazilian federal government with state entities holds a combined 48% stake in Petrobras and is the largest shareholder.