Sandra Carolina Caicedo, owner of the JD Store. Photo: Luis Angel.
Sandra Carolina Caicedo, owner of the JD Store. Photo by: Luis Angel.

The Latin America and Caribbean region (LAC) has made progress on gender equality in past decades. Gains have come in diverse areas, including higher enrollment in education as well as women’s participation in the workforce and politics. However, women still face numerous barriers to participating equally in the economy, including ownership of financial and digital assets, affordable childcare, quality of jobs, representation of women in leadership positions and in non-traditional roles. Indigenous women often face the greatest disadvantages, weighed upon by the double constraints of ethnicity and gender. In a region that has persistent high rates of gender-based violence (GBV), women’s lack of agency is another source of concern.

While there have been advancements in women’s participation in the labor force in LAC, the rate is still lower than for men: Female labor force participation for 2020 is 53 percent compared with 76 percent for men (ILO 2020). In LAC, countries are losing US $ 6.7 trillion in wealth due to differences in income between women and men (World Bank 2018). Although almost 50 percent of companies have some female participation in their shareholding in the LAC region, there is still a large financing gap for women-owned SMEs of US$ 92 billion (IFC 2020). Women are also more likely to be "entrepreneurs by necessity,” as they start businesses because they are denied opportunities in the formal labor market (World Bank 2020).

In LAC, we work with partners in the private sector to close gender gaps and improve women’s access to assets and more and better jobs. We create economic opportunities for women and women-run businesses across the region through a combination of investment and advisory services. We focus on building the business case for gender equality in the private sector by providing research and case studies that demonstrate how it can drive productivity, profitability, and performance for companies. In addition, we promote peer-learning platforms that enable companies to distil good practice, learn from each other, and drive positive change in their operations.