Every year, International Women’s Day is a moment to celebrate the contributions and achievements of women and take stock of how far women have come in the fight for gender equality and inclusion in Latin America and the Caribbean, and around the world.
This occasion also reminds us how much more work we have to do in order to create the conditions so women can recover from the impact of COVID-19, sustain progress, and keep moving forward.
Women still face difficult choices – between family and career, between their responsibilities as caregivers and earning a paycheck, or in wondering if they will have enough to pay for childcare so they can go out and earn a living to ensure their family’s survival.
In 2021, women should not have to decide whether to remain in the workforce to contribute to the well-being of their family. We must all work to create the conditions for women to prosper and thrive. When women succeed, our societies succeed.
This year, this special time also comes at about the one-year mark since the pandemic began to reshape our lives. It is a fact that women have borne the brunt of the economic and social fallout.
As primary caretakers or simply because of the burdensome cost of caregiving, women are now opting out of the workforce to watch after the children now home from school or the relatives who fall ill. That is why one of the pillars of the work of the IDB Group is to support the countries in LAC not only to recover the jobs women have lost but also to transform the labor markets so that more women can have better-quality jobs in emerging sectors.
Furthermore, the majority of the world’s healthcare workers and first responders are female, and confinement also has worsened our region’s epidemic of gender-based violence.
And so, our region’s full recovery and renewed growth – and indeed, the world’s – will depend on women’s empowerment and the imperatives of gender equality and inclusion.
I am proud that almost 40% of the IDB Group’s COVID-19 loan operations have included a focus on the differential effects of the pandemic on women and girls.
Most have provided monetary transfers or improved access to social services for women, and loans for women-owned small businesses.
Projects have funded specialized hospital units for women in El Salvador and supported Paraguay’s effort to reinsert women into the labor force.
My message to you today is that this is just the beginning.
My administration has identified gender equality as one of the focus areas for the Bank’s work in the years ahead.
It’s not just the right thing to do; it’s the smart thing to do.
Closing the gender gap in labor participation, for example, would increase the GDP of our countries by up to 20 percent.
I look forward to the results of new initiatives, such as GD Lab, which will finance rigorous research to help design solutions for closing such gaps.
A program by our innovation incubator, IDB Lab, will directly benefit nearly 5,000 women-owned small and medium-sized businesses in seven countries, and indirectly benefit more than 200,000.
In fact, our increasing focus on the region’s small businesses implies a gender focus by definition: among those led by women, 70% that apply for credit do not get it – and the IDB is determined drive significant improvements.
Our bold outreach to private-sector partners will also generate projects to empower women economically and socially.
Finally, I want to express my pride in the fact that at the IDB Group, we don’t just “talk the talk.”
Our private-sector arm, IDB Invest, was recognized last year as the top performer among 16 leading development finance institutions for investing with a gender lens.
In the Bank at large, our management positions are increasingly filled by women leaders – including our new executive vice president.
I’d like to also recognize our women colleagues, the women of our region and women across the world.
I hope this day next year we can boast bigger results and more progress toward a fairer and more inclusive Americas.