Closing gender economic gaps not only equalizes the playing field between men and women. Gender parity also allows for harnessing 100% of the population’s talent to accelerate the growth of Latin America and the Caribbean.
According to estimates from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), for countries in the Southern Cone, closing the gender economic gap implies an increase in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ranging from 4 to 15%. The need to address this situation becomes evident when we analyze the opportunities and talent that our countries are not maximizing. For instance, in Costa Rica, between 2012 and 2022, three out of every four higher education graduates were women. However, these women have not been able to enter the Costa Rican workforce on equal terms with men. This situation is repeated in most countries in our region, negatively impacting their economic growth opportunities.
Gender Parity Accelerators and the Power of Public-Private Partnerships
In 2016, the IDB decided to join forces with the World Economic Forum to create an advocacy platform composed of high-level leaders from the public and private sectors. This platform, known in the region as Gender Parity Accelerators (IPG for its name in Spanish, Iniciativas de Paridad de Género), aims to drive concrete actions to accelerate the closure of gender economic gaps. In 2019, the French Development Agency (AFD, for its initials in Spanish) joined this alliance.
The IPGs have influenced the promotion of policies and programs at the public and private levels to enhance women’s access to economic opportunities. They have successfully brought together vice presidents and ministers of economic and productive portfolios in nine countries in the region. In close collaboration with Women’s Advancement Mechanisms (MAM) and entrepreneurs from key economic sectors, they committed to promoting actions that leverage women’s talent. This has shifted the gender gap closure from a social agenda item to an economic and productive one.
In the context of my work at the IDB, I have had the privilege of leading a team that, in collaboration with the Forum and the AFD, has supported countries in the development and implementation of these initiatives. In this regard, I invite you to explore the attached publication summarizing the lessons learned from seven years of collaboration, soon available in English as well.
How Does an IPG Work?
IPGs develop and implement Action Plans that include measures for closing gender economic gaps. In each country, government leaders and representatives from private-sector companies form a Leadership Group. Through this group, they guide the process, prioritize efforts, and ensure the progress of established actions.
The IDB leads regional coordination of IPGs, facilitating governments and companies to exchange knowledge and experiences with other countries and receive continuous technical support.
Journey of the IPGs
The first IPG, driven by the IDB and the Forum in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), was launched in Chile in December 2016. To date, IPGs have been initiated in nine countries in our region, chronologically: Chile, Panama, Argentina, Costa Rica, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Mexico, and Honduras.
It is important to highlight that these initiatives have given results thanks to the hundreds of visionary individuals who have supported the projects. Many of them have generated visible changes, for example:
- In Chile, the IPG contributed to the extension of the 4 to 7 Program, providing economically active women with an alternative for the care of children aged 6 to 13 in the afternoon and free of charge.
- On the other hand, in Argentina, the Ministries of Production and Labor created a gender certification for private sector companies and government entities.
- In Costa Rica, the IPG facilitated dialogue between the public and private sectors on care issues, influencing the first National Care Policy of 2021 to expand childcare services to reach more families and extend care for older adults, people with disabilities, or those in dependent situations.
- In Panama, the MI@S program, Indigenous Women Connected, promotes the use of digital technologies for economic empowerment and utilization of public services by indigenous women. The goal is to reach 1,000 trained indigenous leaders, young people, workers, and entrepreneurs of all ages.
Lessons Learned in the Pursuit of Gender Equality
Over the seven years of IPGs, several lessons have been identified. I would like to mention the two most important:
This is thanks to the platform’s effectiveness in convening, forming alliances, and uniting the will of high-level leaders, including CEOs and representatives of the public sector, to generate commitments. This has made it possible to work together in closing gender economic gaps.
2.The involvement of economic and productive portfolios is key to closing gender gaps.
Ministries of finance, economy, production, commerce, and labor, among others, are crucial for promoting job creation and business growth. Their involvement in dialogues about the importance and benefits of closing gender gaps for the country’s development and growth is fundamental. This will facilitate commitments between the public and private sectors, enabling the promotion of regulations and projects to close economic gaps affecting women.
A Look Toward the Future
For some, coordinating efforts around gender equality issues sounds like something logical and fundamental. But this is not as easy as it seems. Considering the economic inequalities and the socio-cultural reality of our countries, IPGs have influenced and kept the agenda of closing gender economic gaps relevant among decision-makers in public policy.
I have always believed that a measure of the success of an initiative or a leader is becoming dispensable. In the future, it is important to continue working hand in hand with the governments and businesses of Latin America and the Caribbean. The impact that IPGs have achieved in promoting measures, regulations, and programs to close gender economic gaps must become a constant in all economic and productive portfolios of the countries in our region.
I extend special thanks to Andrea Arzaba for her collaboration in drafting this article.