“Empowered Businesswomen.” “Businesswomen Influence the Destinies of Other Women.” These two headlines ran in the March 7, 2015 editions of Nicaragua’s two leading newspapers, La Prensa and El Nuevo Diario.
It is not unusual for Nicaraguan media to publish articles related to women’s empowerment on International Women’s Day. Women are prominent in the Nicaraguan political sphere, thanks in part to gender quotas encompassed in the Gender Equality Law and the revised Electoral Law. Nicaragua now ranks 11th in the world in the proportion of women in parliament, 40 percent – far above most other Latin American countries (and the United States, with 18 percent). International Women’s Day provides an opportunity to highlight these advances.
What’s unusual in the case of the two articles linked above is the inclusion of one word: “Businesswomen.” Here is why.
Unfortunately the trend towards greater participation of women in the political sphere has been slow to spread to private sector organizations, which are key actors in advocating for policies that improve the business climate. A 2014 review conducted by the Network of Nicaraguan Businesswomen (REN) of the 19 business organizations that form the umbrella private sector association the Superior Council for Private Enterprise (COSEP) found that an average of 16 percent of board members are women. This is the same figure found by a similar study by the International Labor Organization in 2009.
Private sector organizations rarely incentivize women’s participation or provide equal access to information that can lead them to access leadership positions. As a result, there are very few private sector leaders promoting the specific interests and needs of women entrepreneurs in a substantial way.
On top of that, organizations of women entrepreneurs have historically operated based on incipient alliances and limited coordination with one another, resulting in disperse efforts to advocate for public policies that can improve the business environment for women entrepreneurs.
If this is the reality, are La Prensa and El Nuevo Diario’s articles simply fluff pieces scheduled to coincide with International Women’s Day?