Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

5 lessons for public-private collaboration on gender equality

Gender equality: a meeting being given by a woman to several people around a table.

Gender equality is a critical part of the solution to many of the challenges the world is facing. Image: Marcos - stock.adobe.com

Maria Teresa Villanueva
Principal Operations Specialist at Gender and Diversity Division, Inter-American Development Bank
Julia Hakspiel
Action Lead. Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Social Justice. Centre for the New Economy and Society, World Economic Forum
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Gender Inequality

This article is part of: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting
  • It will take 131 years to close global gender gaps, according to the 2023 Global Gender Gap Report.
  • Gender Parity Accelerators are public-private collaborations that aim to advance women’s labour force participation, pay equity and leadership.
  • Accelerators have been setup by 9 countries in LATAM in partnership with the Forum and IDB.

Amidst compounding crises, gender parity is slipping down the global priority list of issues to be solved. Without renewed efforts, it will take another 131 years to close global gender gaps, according to the Forum's 2023 Global Gender Gap Report.

Yet gender parity is a critical part of the solution to many of the challenges the world is facing. It can drive more sustainable growth, economic stability and resilience. As the green and technological transition gains pace, it can also drive greater innovation and economic diversification. The implementation of the Gender Parity Accelerators in Latin America (LATAM) during the past seven years has taught us that public-private collaboration can play a key role in reigniting progress on gender equality.

Gender Parity Accelerators

The Gender Parity Accelerators are national-level public-private collaboration platforms that aim to advance women’s labour force participation, pay equity and leadership, and hardwire gender parity in the future of work. The Accelerator model brings together ministers and CEOs as co-chairs and involves the 50-100 largest national employers. Countries sign up to the model for three years and drive impact through a combination of public and private action. In 2016, the World Economic Forum and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) joined forces to implement Gender Parity Accelerators (or Iniciativas Paridad de Género as they are known in Spanish) in the LATAM region. In 2019, the French Development Agency (AFD) joined this alliance.

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Seven years later, nine countries in the region have set up Gender Parity Accelerators: Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Honduras, Mexico and Panama. From advancing care policy reform in Chile, Colombia and Costa Rica, through creating gender certification programmes for companies in Argentina and Panama, to contributing to closing gender pay gaps in Chile’s private sector, these initiatives have shown success in advancing policies and programmes that enhance women’s access to economic opportunities.

As detailed in the IDB’s recent publication, there are some important lessons that can be drawn from the past seven years of successful co-implementation of the Accelerators in LATAM:

1. Gender parity needs to be seen as an economic and productivity issue

One of the key success factors of the Accelerators in Latin America and the Caribbean has been the involvement of Ministers of Finance, Economy, Labour, Trade and Production as co-chairs of the initiative. Their involvement signals the economic importance and benefits of closing gender gaps, and is key to commitment and successful engagement from the private sector.

2. Executive leadership, particularly by male champions, can help shift the needle

An important design feature of the Accelerators model is that they convene leaders at the highest level. Each Accelerator is co-chaired by Ministers and CEOs, and the commitment of these executives is key to ensure the Accelerator is able to drive systemic change in policies, business practices, norms and mindsets in the short three-year implementation period. In addition, since men still occupy the majority of public and private leadership positions in LATAM, the Accelerators provide a rare public space where male leaders can champion gender issues, raising awareness and visibility around the consequences of economic gender gaps.

3. Focus action on areas where public-private partnerships can add most value

Given the systemic nature of economic gender gaps, it can be overwhelming to select just five-ten actions for the Accelerator to focus on. Where we have seen Accelerators create most value, is leveraging ongoing initiatives and policies, and supporting their development or implementation through joint public-private action. In Colombia, a unique collaboration between the Ministry of Labour and Grupo Éxito, one of the leading retailers in the country, led to the design of the Equirutas toolbox for diagnosing gender gaps and adopting best business practices for closing these. In Costa Rica, the Accelerator supported the piloting of a new care co-payment model, Gane Tr3s, where companies, families and the government share the cost of childcare. And in Ecuador, the Accelerator will play a key role in the implementation of the Violet Economy Law, which embeds gender equality in the labour market through a combination of requirements and incentives for the private sector.

4. Knowledge sharing at regional and global level

Accelerators provide a platform for governments and companies to exchange knowledge and experiences with other countries, both regionally and globally, through the Global Network. The nine countries implementing IPGs in the region are part of the Forum's Global Country Accelerators Network, which provides a platform for the exchange of ideas, experiences and best practices with more than 30 countries that are accelerating progress in gender parity, employment, education, skills and innovation. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the IDB virtually convened the Accelerators in the region to develop a series of reports and tools shedding light on the gender differentiated impact of the pandemic and the need for a gender sensitive economic reactivation process.


5. Smart governance structures and strategic alliances are key for sustainability

In several countries in the region, the Accelerators have become fully embedded within government administrative structures, ensuring their sustainability in face of future government transitions. In 2018, the governance of the IPG of Panama was institutionalized through the creation of the National Council for Gender Parity. And in 2021, Costa Rica established by decree the High-Level Commission for the Equal Participation of Women in the Economy, including its IPG in the national agenda for closing gender gaps. Such efforts demonstrate both the value the Accelerators have generated and the key role they can continue to play in a country’s journey towards gender parity.

The impact that Accelerators have achieved in initiating and advancing policies, regulations and programmes to close gender economic gaps demonstrate the importance of joint public-private action. Our hope is that such initiatives become a permanent feature of national efforts to advance gender parity.

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