Empower women. Eliminate poverty.


What It Means to be a Great Place to Work®

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Big news! Great Place to Work® has named Friendship Bridge one of The Best Places to Work™ for Women in Central America and the Caribbean in 2021. The award recognizes organizations whose female employees report that their workplace creates trust and supports their ability to reach their full human potential, no matter who they are or what they do. Friendship Bridge ranked second among 25 other multinational organizations that participated, including Belcorp Centroamérica and Novo Nordisk CLAT (Caribbean & Central America.)

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“This is an exceptional honor for us. The employee surveys prove that our impact extends beyond the reach of our client base. The women on our team are also telling us they feel supported and empowered. Even during this pandemic, we’re creating a culture of trust by providing secure jobs, a good income, and important benefits to our female staff.”

– Karen Larson, Friendship Bridge President & CEO

Altogether, Friendship Bridge has received the following rankings this year:

We are so incredibly honored to have received these awards and accolades. The recognition strengthens our ongoing commitment to creating opportunities that empower Guatemalan women to build a better life.

But what does it really mean to be a Great Place to Work®? In this post, we’ll elaborate on a few of these workplace honors.

Definition of a Great Place to Work®

It’s no surprise that when the employees of an organization are happy, those whom they serve are happy too. Numerous studies have demonstrated this very link: happy and engaged employees better serve their clients, which leads to greater client satisfaction and loyalty. At Friendship Bridge, our employees have attested to identifying with Friendship Bridge’s vision and mission, and we know that, thanks to this mission-driven spirit, we are able to achieve the social impact we seek.

Let’s take a deeper look at The Best Place to Work for Women™ in Central America and the Caribbean recognition. This award recognizes organizations based on two characteristics:

  • Their female employees report that the workplace creates trust and supports their ability to reach their full human potential, no matter who they are or what they do.
  • They have practices that are fully committed to the development of women and enable women to enhance and strengthen their skills and abilities.

To establish these rankings, the Great Place to Work® institute analyzed confidential survey feedback from Friendship Bridge staff that took into consideration female employees’ daily experiences of innovation, the company’s values, and the effectiveness of their leaders. The extent to which women are represented in the workforce and throughout management (taking into account industry trends) also factors into the rankings. To be considered, companies need to:

  • Employ at least 50 women
  • Have at least 20% of their non-executive managers be female
  • Have at least one female executive


• Empowerment • Respect • Solidarity

• Participation • Quality • Integrity • Transparency

Friendship Bridge exceeds these minimum requirements across the 14 locations where operate throughout Guatemala. In fact, 96 of our 177 employees are women. Still, we know that gender equality goes beyond quotas. Aside from a sense of engagement with one’s work, and a feeling of support, trust, and respect – the culture itself should foster these sentiments. And at Friendship Bridge, this culture is driven by our core values. We know that unless we integrate these values into our work and create an environment where employees can benefit from these values, the aforementioned awards would not have been possible.

After all, what does a “great workplace” encompass? It is a place where employees feel empowered, they feel respected, they feel a sense of solidarity, they feel engaged to participate, they feel recognized, they receive appreciation for the high quality of their work and for their work ethic, they are treated with integrity, and they experience transparency in the workplace.

We are endlessly grateful for our staff, both in the U.S. and in Guatemala, who show such dedication, compassion, and commitment to empowering women and giving them a hand up as opposed to a handout. Thanks to them, we are able to serve the 30,000 women we do, so that they may choose their own path and build a better life for themselves, for their families, and for their communities.

Great People Make Us a Great Place to Work®

Being named a Great Place to Work® would not be possible without great people – talented, hardworking, dedicated to our mission, and from a diverse set of backgrounds and experiences. One way we attract these “great people” to our organization is through partnerships such as the one we have with the MAIA Impact School, located in Sololá, Guatemala. MAIA, founded by Ted and Connie Ning (who also founded Friendship Bridge) is the first female, indigenous-led secondary school in Central America offering quality, holistic academic education to Guatemalan girls. Our Talent School partnership with MAIA creates a direct pipeline for graduates to participate in our “readiness” program and to ultimately enter the growing workforce at Friendship Bridge. 

“Friendship Bridge gave me the opportunity to enter the work world and it gave me the space for a formal job as an indigenous woman. The organization contributes and cares about my professional and academic improvement.”

– Concepción

Friendship Bridge’s Education and Plus Services Assistant, Concepción, is one person who exemplifies the success of this program. Concepción is an indigenous woman of the Maya Tz’utujil ethnic group who grew up in the town of Santiago Atitlán. One of nine children, neither her father nor her mother received any formal education, and the highest level of schooling her siblings completed was the seventh grade. While her sisters dedicated themselves to embroidery as artisans, Concepción was accepted to the MAIA Impact School and even received a scholarship to attend. Particular stigmas around pursuing this kind of opportunity, however, meant Concepción did not have unconditional support, and she was discouraged by both neighbors as well as relatives:

“I had the opportunity to break stereotypes about what it means to have a scholarship. Many people said that having a scholarship is eating and living from the organizations. These paradigms initially caused my father to refuse to participate in the three activities at MAIA. But over time, he changed his mind.”

Concepción’s strong academic performance at MAIA enabled her to pursue a college degree in Business Administration. During her second year of studies, she applied for and was hired as an intern with the Human Resources department at Friendship Bridge. In this role, she received professional training and practical work experience, allowing her to become a full-time employee. She has now been an employee of Friendship Bridge for two years. Concepción feels grateful and proud to be able to participate in this impactful work and to empower women in Guatemala. She also values the comradery amongst the team, the doors this experience has opened for her, and the community of high-impact women with whom she works.

Read more about this impactful partnership here and discover how it empowered Mildred, one of our Credit and Education Facilitators, to find her calling.

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