The Center for Women’s Economic Empowerment (CWEE) and the Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) team at CIPE advance gender equality in emerging markets to build more inclusive, thriving economies and democracies that deliver for all citizens. This briefer outlines CIPE’s approach to promoting women’s economic empowerment (WEE) in Latin America & the Caribbean (LAC) and provides examples of CIPE programming across the region.
The Status of Women in Latin America
Women across Latin America face acute barriers that block full political and economic participation in society. Factors such as unequal caregiving responsibilities, economic inequality, inadequate political representation, and gender-based violence undermine gender equality in the region. Though there has been progress in the incorporation of women in some labor markets, there are still significant obstacles, inequality, and segregation that result in pervasive unemployment, wage gaps, and labor informality. Women, as compared to men, are more likely to participate in the informal economy and, as such, are subjected to lower wages, long hours, and poor working conditions that are highly vulnerable to demand shocks and climate disasters. This situation, already alarming, was worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite the existence of these ongoing hardships, there are notable forces in the region pushing for gender equity. The Social Institutions and Gender Index 2020 Regional Report for Latin America highlights that in recent years, strong social movements supporting gender equality and women’s empowerment have surged across the region. Many countries have taken measures to recognize, redistribute, and reduce women’s unpaid domestic work. To better protect women’s rights in the workplace, there have been shifts in many countries to introduce and/or extend maternity and paternity leave. Several countries have strengthened their legal frameworks to promote women’s political participation at the local and national levels. Yet the continued existence of discriminatory institutions, embedded social norms, and unequal laws demonstrates that more must be done to elevate women as full participants in political and economic life in Latin America.
Discrimination in intra-household and professional dynamics between men and women has a profound impact on women’s economic opportunities and engagement. More than half of the population in Latin America believes that children suffer when a mother is employed. Not only do many Latin American women shoulder a disproportionate amount of household responsibilities, but they also face stereotypes and barriers when they seek to progress in their careers. Cultural norms regarding the types of fields and positions that are “proper” for women to take on hinders the advancements of women in their personal and professional pursuits. Women in the region are less likely than men to establish businesses due to human and social capital limitations, lack of access to finance, and other institutional barriers. In a reality where women report being excluded from male-dominated business environments, it is critical to create supportive spaces for women to create networks, gain skills, and unite their voices.