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Women still 'woefully underrepresented' in Chile business, economics -Yellen

Chile's Finance Minister Mario Marcel and U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen meet in Santiago

By Andrea Shalal

SANTIAGO (Reuters) - U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Friday lauded work by Chile's central bank to boost gender diversity, but said women were still "woefully underrepresented" in senior management and in many economic sectors in the South American country.

Yellen, a trailblazer in the field of economics, met with Chilean central bank governor Rosanna Costa and over a dozen other top women leaders during her visit to Chile, and lauded the central bank's work to boost diversity and inclusion.

The first woman to head the U.S. Treasury, Yellen has held similar meetings with women entrepreneurs and economists in South Korea, China, Zambia, Mexico and Vietnam, hailing the benefits of boosting women's participation in the workforce.

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Yellen, also the first woman to head the U.S. Federal Reserve, entered a large wood-paneled boardroom at the central bank to applause. Costa described Yellen as "a tremendous leaders and source of inspiration for women in our country and aboard" given her pioneering work in economics.

Yellen said she was in Chile to emphasize the importance of U.S.-Chile political and economic ties, highlighting a free trade agreement in place for 20 years and a recent tax treaty.

"Making the most of these opportunities requires a strong enabling environment for the private sector. And this in turn can be fueled by the full and equal participation of women in the economy," Yellen said.

She said there was more work to do to break down the legal, cultural and regulatory barriers preventing women from full participation, noting that governmental agencies and companies need to work actively to close gender gaps.

"The Central Bank of Chile has demonstrated this conviction by addressing the issues of diversity and gender equality head on," she said, applauding the bank's doubling of the percentage of women being hired into economic-related positions.

"I know that women in Chile are still woefully underrepresented in senior management and across many economic sectors," she said, recognizing work done by many in the room to change those trends through social, regulatory, political and organizational efforts.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Mark Porter)