Investing in women boosts economic development, job creation and GDP, according to research from institutions including the World Economic Forum, the World Bank and the IMF. It is also estimated that women control about 65% of spending decisions globally, and this clout is not limited to what are traditionally considered as female categories. There is a clear business case for women being more involved in the design, manufacture and marketing of a huge range of goods and services.
However, in Latin America, obstacles persist which prevent this potential being realised. Despite women’s many great contributions to the economy and entrepreneurial success stories, there is a lack of coordination on improving gender equality in the workplace and unlocking their full potential.
According to a new report by the World Bank, economic growth in Latin America has accelerated sharply in the past decade, while inequality has reached historic highs in the most unequal region in the world. In the same time period, women’s participation in the labour market has increased by 15%, generating an income that has contributed 30% of the reduction in extreme poverty. Women play a disproportionate role in narrowing dangerous wealth gaps.
Throughout the region, women have been contributing to their companies, economies, families and communities with little or no political, social or economic help. Just think how much more they could do with solid support. The question now is to understand which are the channels and support mechanisms that will have the most positive impact.
Women in Latin America find themselves excluded from global value chains – the whole range of a company’s activities – mainly because they lack free and fair access to technology, or the sort of technical literacy that allows them to connect and engage with the global market.
In this region, women are still held back by cultural beliefs and community pressure – a woman’s family might question whether she can balance home duties with those of the workplace, for instance. What is needed is access to education, training opportunities and mentors who see women as capable leaders.
Another problem is money. Women lack the access to capital which is necessary to broaden their business vision and grow from micro-entrepreneurship to entrepreneurship. In many places, women are discriminated against by regulations and customs that block their participation altogether. Clearly, governments and companies need to address these barriers.
Mexico has launched a Gender Parity Taskforce, dedicated to systematically closing economic gender gaps, improving female representation across Mexican companies and promoting enterprises founded by women. I and Carlos Danel, chief executive officer of Gentera, are leading this effort from the side of the private sector.
This is an opportune moment to launch educational campaigns – for men as well as women, but also children and young people – regarding the false conflict between home, motherhood and business. We work with communities, customers and suppliers, sharing insights and working to improve corporate practices and public policies.
Only by working together can we create an environment that supports women’s growth and, by extension, the world’s economic growth.
This blog is part of a series for International Women’s Day.
Author: Angelica Fuentes is Chief Executive Officer of the Omnilife-Angelissima-Chivas Group, Mexico.
Image: Women watch the sunset on a beach in Rio de Janeiro, February 4, 2014. REUTERS/Sergio Moraes