News Releases

Mar 8, 2017

Region advances towards gender equality driven by participation in public sector: IDB

Leadership in the private sector and entrepreneurship, equal pay, and violence remain principle challenges

According to the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), countries in the region have achieved significant gains in gender equality in recent years. In less than a generation, the share of legislative and parliamentary seats held by women in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), has risen to 25%, a figure that is surpassed only by Nordic countries.

Currently, 3 of our member countries are amongst the 10 national legislatures with the highest female representation in the world: Bolivia (53%), Mexico (42%) and Ecuador (42%). These rates of participation have tripled since the 1990s when women held only 9% of legislative seats.

With an average of 25% more women than men enrolled in tertiary education, we are now the region in the world with the third highest level of participation of women in universities; this percentage is surpassed only by North America and Western Europe. Women’s labor participation is also noteworthy, with 53% of women in our countries engaged in the labor market, exceeding the global average of 50%.

However, despite these and other gains, important challenges persist. With the exception of the Caribbean, where women account for 18% of the members of private company’s boards of directors and 29% of executives, only 8.5% of boards in Latin America are women.

In fact, according to a study by the Inter-American Development Bank (Piras, et al.) using data from 1,259 publicly traded companies in 31 countries in our region, 63% of Latin American companies do not have women on their boards and 73% do not have a single woman in high management. In addition, the wage gap between men and women still persists in our region, ranging between 10% and 40% difference in pay for equal work.

Another urgent challenge is the scourge of violence against women. One in three women has been a victim of physical or sexual violence by their partner. In addition to the enormous human suffering that it causes, violence against women inflicts a significant economic toll on the private sector by affecting levels of absenteeism, productivity and returns. For example, it is estimated that in Peru the economic losses attributed to domestic violence are equivalent to 3.7% of GDP, and in Bolivia they surpass 6%.

As Andrew Morrison, chief of the IDB's Gender, Inclusion and Diversity Division has said, "Gender equality is not just a matter of solidarity or social justice, it is a crucial issue for the region’s competitivity economic empowerment and female labor participation generate greater profits for companies, thus contributing to the prosperity of our countries."

As part of measures to promote gender equality in the region and to lead by example, the IDB recently obtained the EDGE Certification, an international standard that uses a rigorous methodology to evaluate companies in terms of equality in pay, recruitment and promotion, leadership development, and training and mentoring programs, with the aim of helping organizations create optimal workplaces for both men and women.

Working to overcome the various challenges and barriers that stand in the way of full gender equality is one of the principle tasks the region continue to face.

About the IDB

The Inter-American Development Bank is devoted to improving lives. Established in 1959, the IDB is a leading source oflong-term financing for economic, social and institutional development in Latin America and the Caribbean. The IDB also conducts cutting-edge research and provides policy advice, technical assistance and training to public and private sector clients throughout the region.

More Information

María Teresa Villanueva
Lead Specialist
Gender, Diversity and Inclusion Division

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