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Global Gender Gap Report 2023: More women are leading in Latin America, but progress still needed

Latin America and the Caribbean has seen the largest progress since the first edition of the Global Gender Gap Report.

Latin America and the Caribbean has seen the largest progress since the first edition of the Global Gender Gap Report. Image: Getty Images

Silja Baller
Head of Mission, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, World Economic Forum
Maria Caridad Araujo
Chief, Gender and Diversity Division, The Inter-American Development Bank
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  • Latin America now has the third highest rate of gender parity globally at 74.3%.
  • It has seen particularly strong improvement in terms of political empowerment for women.
  • The region is also making progress on access to economic opportunities, but room for improvement remains.

According to the World Economic Forum’s 2023 Global Gender Gap Report, Latin America and the Caribbean has closed almost three-quarters of its gender gap: The region has the third highest level of parity globally at 74.3%. At the current rate of progress, it will take 53 years for the region to attain full gender parity based on the dimensions included in the WEF´s Global Gender Gap Index.

Out of all regions featured, Latin America and the Caribbean has seen the largest progress since the inaugural edition of the report in 2006, with an increase of 8.4 percentage points in its Global Gender Gap Index score, and all 18 countries included in the report, having improved their scores.

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What's the World Economic Forum doing about the gender gap?

What is driving progress regionally? What initiatives have shown promise and impact in closing gender gaps? How can the region continue to advance gender equality?

The World Economic Forum’s annual Global Gender Gap Index measures parity between women and men across four dimensions: political empowerment, economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, and health and survival. In Latin America and the Caribbean, the improvement in the index has been predominantly driven by the dimension of political empowerment, followed by economic participation and opportunity.

Political empowerment

The region has seen significant improvement in the political empowerment dimension, led by an increasing share of women holding ministerial and parliamentary positions. At 35% parity, the region has the second-highest score after Europe, having seen a 23.4 percentage point increase since 2006, and 16 out of 18 countries improving their parity scores in this regard. Several countries enacted laws and constitutional reforms and implemented gender quota laws to increase women's representation in political positions.

Argentina was the first country in the world to pass a gender quota law, and later enacted the Law on Gender Parity in Areas of Political Representation, which requires gender balance among legislative candidates. Similar laws have since been passed by Bolivia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru and Panama. Several of these countries have gone further, with Mexico, Bolivia and Ecuador mandating gender parity across all government branches. Twelve out of 21 countries in the region have had a woman head of state in the last 50 years.

Improved access to economic opportunities

The region has also observed improvement in gender parity in workforce participation, remuneration and female representation in management and leadership roles. Parity in this area in Latin America and the Caribbean stands at 65.2%, the third-lowest regional score, ahead of the Middle East and North Africa as well as Southern Asia, yet it marks a 9.3 percentage point improvement since 2006. Without a doubt, the COVID-19 pandemic was a significant setback, with female workforce participation rates only recovering to pre-pandemic levels in 2022.

These improvements have been driven by increased rates of education attainment, positive evolution in social norms and broader labour market shifts. Public policies and private sector initiatives have also positively incentivized more women to enter the workforce and broken down occupational barriers.

Which areas still need work?

While gender parity in the region may be on the upward trend, there is still scope for further improvement, particularly in the types and quality of women's jobs. Women continue to be over-represented in sectors and jobs characterised by lower wages and high levels of informality, where labour market regulations prohibiting gender discrimination are hard to enforce and that lack access to a national social protection system. Women are also under-represented as both graduates and workers in sectors that are growing in relevance, such as STEM and renewable energy.

Closer partnerships are needed between the public and private sectors to support skilling, upskilling and recruitment of women into such roles. Far more investment is needed to expand the region’s care infrastructure and parental leave provisions. Stronger partnerships between the public and private sectors in the design, implementation and monitoring of the effectiveness of such policies and initiatives will be key to their success.

Public-private partnerships to close gender gaps

One example of an initiative driving public-private collaboration in this area are the Gender Parity Accelerators (Iniciativas Paridad de Género, IPG, in Spanish), implemented by the World Economic Forum, the Inter-American Development Bank and the French Development Agency (AFD) in partnership with nine countries in the region. Since 2016, the IPGs provide several examples of how public policies implemented in close partnership with the private sector can help close economic gender gaps.

In Costa Rica, the Accelerator has supported the expansion of the national care system, including piloting an innovative co-payment mechanism between the government and employers. In Panama, the National Council for Gender Parity, established through the Accelerator, enacted legislation for minimum representation of women on boards of directors and equal pay. And Ecuador passed one of the region’s most ambitious gender laws, the Violet Economy Law, which put in place requirements for equal pay, female representation on governing boards, childcare solutions, procedures to prevent sexual harassment and public reporting on equality by companies with more than 50 employees and offers tax incentives for companies creating jobs for women in jobs.

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World Economic Forum

May 21, 2024

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