In Latin America, public-private partnerships support a gender-inclusive recovery

Gender Economics

Image: Getty Images


It will take 69 years to close gender gap in Latin America and the Caribbean.

 This article was previously published in the World Economic Forum Blog, on May 23, 2022.

  • In Latin America and the Caribbean, the pandemic has increased the time it will take to close gender gaps by ten years.
  • Gender Parity Accelerators are a tried and tested model that can support inclusive economic recovery efforts in the region through public-private collaboration.

The COVID-19 pandemic has set back progress to close gender gaps in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) by a decade. According to the 2021 World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report it will now take 69 years to close gender gaps in the region. Effective public-private collaboration can help reverse these negative trends.

Public-private collaboration for bridging gender gap in recovery

During the early stages of the pandemic, nearly 13 million women in the region saw their jobs disappear and 4 million still have not returned to work. Women were 44% more likely to lose their jobs during the pandemic, due to their concentration in disrupted sectors, high levels of economic informality, a disproportionate care workload coupled with long school closures and a surge in gender-based violence.

Employment recovery gender gap across the LAC region, since the COVID-19 pandemic.

Employment recovery gender gap across the LAC region, since the COVID-19 pandemic.

Image: World Economic Forum

Effective public-private collaboration for greater gender equality must be a key component of the region’s COVID-19 recovery strategies. Indeed, it’s a model that has already been tried and tested. Since 2016, the World Economic Forum and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) have been collaborating on the implementation of the Gender Parity Accelerators in the region to tackle gender disparities and promote women’s workforce participation, equal pay and advancement into leadership roles. In 2019, the French Development Agency (AFD) joined the partnership.

These Accelerators are already working in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, and Panama. This year, the governments of Ecuador and Mexico, have also initiated set up of Accelerators.

How can the Accelerators support a sustainable and inclusive recovery?

Accelerate policy reforms

The Accelerators have effectively promoted public policy reform, including through innovative use of IDB’s policy-based loans (PBLs) providing countries with flexible funding to support policy reform or institutional changes in particular sectors. For example, Panama was awarded two PBLs to enact new legislation related to minimum representation of women on the Boards of Directors (Ley 56) and gender pay gap reporting (Ley 4).

In Colombia, research conducted by the Accelerator on the cost and benefits of expanding paternity leave led to the government extending paternity leave allowances to 2 weeks. This is a major step forward for women’s empowerment. As highlighted in IDB Invest research with Mercer and Promundo drawing on the Accelerators, parental leave reform is a key mechanism for supporting shifts in norms and practices around co-responsibility in care.

Provide private sectors with tools for concrete action

Companies that join the Accelerators benefit from a set of tools to assess and improve their gender equality performance. The process begins with the Accelerator Playbook, which guides the public and private sector through a set of proven strategies for achieving scale and impact in closing economic gender gaps.

In Colombia, Costa Rica, Panama, and the Dominican Republic businesses have also leveraged the Women’s Empowerment Principles Gender Gap Analysis Tool to develop time-bound action plans with measurable goals and targets to address gender parity in the workplace and their supplier base. Through the broader Global Learning Network of Accelerators, companies and governments get to exchange experiences and best practices, at the industry, regional and global level.

These tools have helped companies translate their commitments to gender parity into concrete actions and results. In Chile, more than 130 companies supported the implementation of the Accelerator action plan and took steps to improve quality of jobs and close pay gaps for more than 130,000 women – the equivalent of 7% of salaried employees in Chile’s private sector.

Bolster opportunities for women in non-traditional and high-growth sectors and roles to close the gender gap

The Accelerators are also supporting women’s entry and progression in non-traditional sectors. In Colombia, more than 70 companies from the construction, mining, and energy sectors, as well as two leading business associations representing these industries, have committed to adopting gender-responsive policies and increasing the number of women in their workforce by improving working conditions. This is substantial progress for a sector where women represent less than 20% of the workforce and 9% of leadership.

Reskilling and upskilling efforts can also help bring women who have stopped working mid-career back into work and help those in roles at high risk of automation or with low earning potential into higher earning roles that will continue to grow in the future. Data from the 2021 Coursera Global Skills Report found that women are pursuing online education, including in STEM courses, at a higher rate than pre-pandemic.

Brazil, Mexico and Colombia are countries where Coursera has some of the highest numbers of women learners, but Uruguay and Guatemala are also increasing their share. Countries like the Dominican Republic are leveraging these trends by taking concrete steps in their Accelerator action plan to close digital gender divides and encourage more women to pursue career opportunities in STEM.

Latin American and the Caribbean is evidence that these interventions work

Alongside inclusive economic recovery policies, Accelerators can promote the return to work for women while helping close existing gender gaps in remuneration and leadership. Public-private partnerships are putting the region on the right path towards more gender equal recovery.

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