Latin America and the Caribbean faces a complex socioeconomic situation: high inflation, increasing poverty and inequality. The context worsens from a gender perspective, as women are often the most affected. In the region, female poverty exceeds their male counterparts by more than three percentage points on average. This is a true reflection of the inequality in our countries, which requires urgent and effective action.
In infrastructure, women continue to be underrepresented. Although women are primarily responsible for household water and energy management, this does not translate into a significant presence in the workforce. Closing the gender gap in infrastructure will take at least 132 years, according to the World Economic Forum.
The only way to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in Latin America and the Caribbean is through gender equality. It is impossible to combat the inequalities that currently plague our societies with only half the population. We can no longer afford to leave women behind, and this is where the infrastructure sector plays a key role.
Closing the labor gap between men and women would allow for economic growth of 22.5% according to the International Monetary Fund. Therefore, gender equality cannot be simply a social media trend. It must be a tangible commitment for companies, governments and civil organizations to build a fairer and more inclusive society, with actions that benefit all genders.
According to the International Labour Organization, when companies implement an inclusive business culture, there is a 63% increase in the probability of achieving higher profitability and productivity, as well as in the company’s ability to attract and retain talent (60%).
At the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) we are committed to gender equality. I am proud to say that we have made great strides in incorporating gender-specific activities in most of our projects. Moreover, today, all of our projects include actions that benefit gender equality and we have investment funds specifically allocated to reducing these gaps.
But we know that there is still a long way to go, and that is why we want to support our member countries to generate more and better infrastructure projects based on solid knowledge and data, and to train our partners to change inequality structures.
At the IDB, we already support countries in their efforts to close the gender gap. We focus on infrastructure projects that promote women’s participation in non-traditional jobs to generate more and better opportunities.
In addition to developing inclusion policies, awareness-raising activities and trainings on gender equity, we promote infrastructure that accounts for the needs of women. In water and sanitation, for example, this involves the promotion of hand washing, menstrual hygiene and household hygiene, as well as the saving and efficient use of water.
Infrastructure must adapt and generate spaces that promote equality. That is why we support the adaptation of urban transportation systems with gender-differentiated needs and the implementation of measures to prevent and reduce gender-based violence in the workplace, because this is the only way to ensure greater female labor participation.
We are pleased to see that these measures have enabled the Bogota Public Transport Operator “La Rolita” to become the first public transport company in the region with more female drivers, thanks to a training program for 450 female electric bus drivers. We hope to replicate these results in other subsectors, such as the energy sector in Panama, where indigenous women are being trained in the installation of photovoltaic systems to generate electricity.
Gender equality must be considered in every step of the design, construction and maintenance of works. We created a guide to integrate gender in the design of infrastructure operations and our INFRALAC4ALL platform will focus on promoting inclusive infrastructure through the development of standardized gender and diversity policies, strategies and actions in water, sanitation, transportation and energy.
To build a strong infrastructure sector that supports sustainable development in Latin America and the Caribbean, gender equality must be one of the foundational pillars. That is why we are committed to investing more and better, to intensify our gender initiatives and to benefit more women, while continuing to work to break down gender stereotypes and promote sustainable, quality and inclusive infrastructure services throughout the region.
INFRALAC4ALL: Infrastructure at the service of gender equality
On February 8, the Infrastructure and Energy Sector Management (INE) of the IDB held the first INFRALAC4ALL Regional Forum: Infrastructure at the Service of Gender Equality, where several speakers talked about the benefits and opportunities of attracting and retaining more women in the infrastructure sector for sustainable development in Latin America and the Caribbean. (Video is only available in Spanish)
Learn more about social inclusion and gender equality in the infrastructure sector:
Transport for inclusive development: a path for Latin America and the Caribbean:
Gender and water: The experience of including a gender perspective in drinking water and sanitation projects in Paraguay.
Green transition and gender bias: an analysis of renewable energy generating companies in Latin America.
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