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Meet the new Ticas

Many women in Costa Rica are delaying motherhood to pursue career dreams.

In Costa Rica, the second reproductive revolution is seeing women wait longer than ever to have their first baby, which will slow the fertility rate further still.

"Women are questioning when to have their first child. There are women in their 20s and 30s who say they don't want children at all. This was unheard of 20 years ago," Rosero said. The trend is too fresh to predict how long women will prolong pregnancy, he said, and it remains to be seen if Costa Rica will end up with extremely low fertility rates as happened in Spain and Italy.

As Costa Rica's fertility rates began to fall, health and education standards rose. Now gains are being made in improving the representation of women in business and politics.

Women grew from 30 percent of the workforce in the 1990s to 42 percent in 2008, and more than a quarter are their home's main breadwinner, according to studies by the United Nations Development Program's Costa Rica office and the official statistics bureau. Employed women have on average one more year of college education than men.

However, "women are still trying to reconcile production with reproduction," said Raquel Herrera, programs specialist at the U.N. office. Women work multiple "shifts," changing roles from breadwinner at the office, to cleaner, cook and caretaker at home, unless they have the means to delegate the housework. Ticas are still trying to change that custom, said Herrera.

And increased employment isn't translating to equal pay. A gender-based salary gap persists and, recent studies suggest, has even widened. Thirteen years ago men earned 15 percent more than women in the same jobs, according to a report in La Nacion newspaper. That number has jumped to 26 percent.

"Women tend to accept the position and the salary they are given; they don't renegotiate. That's different from men," said  Ligia Olvera, a Mexican-Costa Rican economist who has researched gender issues.

The political sphere has carved a path of its own. Women gained the right to vote in 1949. Today, by law, at least one woman must appear on ballots, either as one of two vice presidents or the president, and women must make up at least 40 percent of a political party's electable posts. The government plans to make it a 50-50 split by the next elections in 2014.

A Georgetown-educated politician, Laura Chinchilla will take office on May 8 as the country's first female president. She has served as a legislator, public security minister, justice minister and vice president to the current president, Oscar Arias. She has already filled nearly half of her ministry posts, including key positions like economy minister and foreign trade chief, with women, the most female representation in a cabinet in Costa Rican history.

Soto, the climber, couldn't vote in the election because she was training in California. But she still revels in the big moment Chinchilla ascended her Everest. "The glass is broken," she said. "From now on, any girl who’s born, if she wants to be president one day, she can."

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/costa-rica/100328/women-politics-birth-rate