Given the enormous challenges facing Latin America in 2020, achieving true equality between men and women by the end of this decade might sound impossible — or perhaps, like a dream that must be deferred.
But despite old machista stereotypes, it’s an area where the region has already made significant progress in the last 20 years. Consider that women now hold a third of seats in Latin America’s national legislatures, and about half in Mexico, Bolivia and Costa Rica. The U.S. number, by comparison, is just 24%. A broad measure by the World Economic Forum, which accounts for economic, health and educational disparities, puts Latin America’s gender gap at 28.8% — down from 33% in the mid-2000s, and better than the global average. Today, there are more women than men in the region’s universities.
That’s a record to build on, and a tonic to the general feeling of hopelessness that permeates the region today. But as with so much else, progress is now being reversed due to the pandemic. Studies show women are doing an even higher percentage of unpaid household work like cleaning and childcare, forcing them to put professional opportunities aside. Some 15% of households report increased domestic violence since the pandemic started. Unemployment is rising faster among women, and many are dropping out of school, damaging a whole generation’s future.
This issue of AQ is a special report built around five recommendations to get the quest for gender equality back on track.
We start with a call to improve access to financing for women entrepreneurs, who currently account for just 23% of loan portfolios in Latin America despite being just as likely as men to start a business in many countries. Enrolling more low-income women in STEM programs would open up tomorrow’s most promising professional fields. Improving protections for women against violence is a necessary condition for addressing many other challenges; so is getting men to do their fair share of household work and caregiving. And finally, this issue is full of inspiring stories of women who have succeeded against the odds, living proof of the need to find new, creative ways to feature women as role models so future generations can build on their example. Our cover highlights Epsy Campbell Barr, the vice president of Costa Rica and the first Afro-descendant woman on the continent to be elected to such a position of power.
A recent McKinsey report put the economic dividend of gender equality in Latin America at some $1.1 trillion. That would be a huge boost amid the greatest recession in modern memory, but there are more reasons than money to do it. Equality shouldn’t have to wait.
Improve Access to Financing for Women Entrepreneurs
A story of extraordinary talent, but no hope of getting a loan.
Improving access to credit for women entrepreneurs can help Latin America recover from the pandemic.
Building an investor ecosystem for female entrepreneurs can help close persistent funding gaps.
Find New, Creative Ways to Feature Women as Role Models
Mentors are an asset to women in Latin America and beyond. They often find us unexpectedly, writes Susan Segal.
Organizations can take these steps to ensure women get the visibility they need to thrive – and inspire others to follow.
AQ highlights five distinguished individuals who have used their careers to help close the gender gap.
Enroll More Low-Income Women in STEM Programs
Organizations like Laboratoria are helping working-class women join the insular world of computer programming.
Despite some progress, the picture remains mixed, a longtime observer says.
Get Men to Do Their Fair Share of Household Work and Caregiving
Men must do a greater share of household work for gender equality to become a reality.
The examples of Chile and Colombia can help others in the region, but don’t expect one-size-fits-all solutions.
Improve Protections for Women Against Violence
One of Brazil’s largest retailers has launched an audacious program to help victims – both customers and employees.
Women are key to making security stronger for everyone.
Latin America has passed noteworthy laws to protect women. Implementing them has been harder.
Other Feature Content
How Prudencia Ayala became the first woman to run for president in Latin America.
The region shows that if done right, quotas can dramatically boost women’s numbers in Congress and beyond.
Women running for office still face barriers almost unimaginable to men, but innovative tools can help.
Tags: Gender, Gender Equality