Burdens of the Care Economy: CIPE’s Approach to Empowering Women by Advancing Care Infrastructure

The Economic Costs of Caregiving

Reducing barriers to participation, including childcare constraints, is at the heart of Corali’s mission to empower women in business.

Globally, women are responsible for nearly three-quarters of unpaid care work. In many countries, young girls withdraw from their education to assume caregiving responsibilities for siblings, children, and other family members as demand for accessible care continues to exceed quality supply. The expectation that women will absorb responsibility for unpaid care work exacerbates the barriers to women’s full participation in the economic sphere. 

In January 2023, the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Global Women’s Issues (GWI) released the updated United States Strategy on Global Women’s Economic Security. Pillar II of the strategy is “advancing care infrastructure and valuing domestic work” with the vision “to advance quality and sustainable care infrastructure that is accessible to all.” As a driving force for women’s economic empowerment worldwide, representatives from CIPE’s Center for Women’s Economic Empowerment (CWEE) participated in GWI’s civil society feedback sessions to reinforce the private sector’s role as a proactive partner in implementing gender policies.  

A Novel Approach: Trainings and Childcare Under One Roof

Since 2017, CIPE has developed and refined its Women’s Business Resource Center (WBRC) model that provides a safe, physical space with childcare where women of diverse backgrounds can access educational opportunities and resources to launch and grow their businesses. The WBRC model addresses some of the main barriers to women’s economic empowerment and participation, including access to childcare. 

The WBRC in Guatemala (“Corali”), for example, includes a fully equipped daycare facility that is staffed full time by a certified childcare provider. The daycare was designed with the philosophy that businesswomen are entitled to individual respect, support, and quality care for their children. During Corali’s first 18 months in operation, more than 100 children between 0 and 13 years old utilized the daycare facilities as their mothers participated in business workshops, received advisory services, and took advantage of networking opportunities.

The daycare facilities at Corali are staffed by certified childcare professionals and the space is available for use during all Corali events.

Gender Inclusivity and the Workplace

According to a study conducted by CIPE and Universidad EAFIT in Colombia, companies who provide on-site childcare facilities (either free or at reduced cost) reported decreased staff turnover and absenteeism, as well as increased productivity and community reputation. The study proports that, in addition to accessible care, the best facilities also provide gender neutral parenting workshops, comprehensive learning and development updates, as well as other benefits. The study identifies childcare as one of nine priorities for creating gender inclusive corporate policies; the other recommendations are available here.  

To ensure women are active contributors to their local economies, it is critical to advance existing care infrastructure at all levels: from micro-level investments in care facilities to macro-level advocacy for social and legal protections. When women are excluded from active participation in society due to inaccessible care facilities, the entire community loses out on their potential contributions.  

CIPE commits to strengthening women’s voices across the globe through education, advocacy, and collective action to move the needle on discriminatory and harmful practices, both within the care infrastructure and beyond.

 Images by CIPE partner, Red Nacional de Grupos Gestores, used with permission.  

Published Date: March 27, 2024