In Latin America, public-private partnerships narrow the gender gap in recovery

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

The COVID-19 pandemic has set back progress in closing gender gaps in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) by a decade. According to the World Economic Forum’s 2021 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 to close the gender gap in recovery

In the early stages of the pandemic, almost 13 million women in the region saw their jobs disappear and 4 million have still 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, disproportionate care workload associated with long school closures and an increase in gender-based violence.

Gender gap in employment recovery in the LAC region, since the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gender gap in employment recovery in the LAC region, since the COVID-19 pandemic.

Image: World Economic Forum

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

These accelerators are already operating in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic and Panama. This year, the governments of Ecuador and Mexico have also launched the establishment of accelerators.

How can accelerators support a sustainable and inclusive recovery?

Accelerate political reforms

The accelerators have effectively promoted public policy reform, including through innovative use of IDB policy lending (PBL), providing countries with flexible financing to support policy reform or institutional change in particular sectors. For example, Panama received two PBLs to enact new legislation relating to minimum representation of women on corporate boards (Ley 56) and communication of gender pay gaps (Ley 4).

In Colombia, research by the Accelerator on the cost and benefits of expanding paternity leave led the government to extend paternity leave benefits to 2 weeks. This is a major step forward for the empowerment of women. As IDB Invest research with Mercer and Promundo building on the accelerators highlights, parental leave reform is a key mechanism to support changes in norms and practices around co-responsibility in caregiving.

Provide the 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 sectors through a set of proven strategies to achieve the scale and impact needed to close the economic gender gaps.

In Colombia, Costa Rica, Panama and the Dominican Republic, companies have also leveraged the Women’s Empowerment Principles gender gap analysis tool to develop action plans with timelines with measurable goals and targets to address gender parity in the workplace and their supplier base. Through the wider global network of learning accelerators, businesses and governments can exchange experiences and best practices, at industry, regional and global levels.

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 action to improve job quality and close pay gaps for more than 130,000 women, the equivalent of 7% Chilean private sector employees.

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

The accelerators also support the entry and progression of women in non-traditional sectors. In Colombia, more than 70 companies in the construction, mining and energy sectors, as well as two leading professional associations representing these industries, have committed to adopting gender-sensitive 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 management positions.

Retraining and upskilling efforts can also help bring women who have ceased work mid-career back to work and help those in positions with high risk of automation or low earning potential into higher paying positions that will continue to grow in the future. Data from Coursera’s 2021 Global Skills Report found that women are taking up online training, including in STEM courses, at a higher rate than before the pandemic.

Brazil, Mexico and Colombia are countries where Coursera has one of the highest numbers of female 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 bridge gender digital divides and encourage more women to pursue STEM career opportunities.

Latin America and the Caribbean is proof that these interventions work

Along with inclusive economic recovery policies, accelerators can help get women back to work while helping close existing gender gaps in pay and leadership. Public-private partnerships put the region on the right path to a more gender-equal recovery.