Change is possible, but progress remains stagnant in addressing gender gaps

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Una mujer trabaja en el laboratorio de LaGeo, planta de geotermia de El Salvador Una mujer trabaja en el laboratorio de LaGeo, planta de geotermia de El Salvador

Many more women today choose to become engineers, medical doctors, professional athletes, artists, mothers. But gender gaps are far from being closed. Women are, together with girls, part of vulnerable groups that face differentiated impacts from crises and climate change. Although the Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) region has made progress in closing gender disparities, recent crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and rising inflation, have disproportionately affected women and girls.

The World Bank´s new 2023 Country Gender Scorecards reflect on the challenges and progress in nine priority areas for the region and highlight gender gaps that require the most urgent attention in 30 LAC countries. The tool relies on data from the WBG’s World Development Indicators to generate a comparative analysis on key indicators. Most importantly, the new scorecards provide examples of evidence-based solutions to close them and offer country-specific resources on gender and poverty.

What do we know about gender gaps in Latin America and the Caribbean?

While gender data in key areas (enrollment in STEM, gender-based violence, access to assets, and time use) remain scarce, data from this year’s Gender Scorecards points to persistent gender disparities in terms of: participation of women and girls in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and computer science), women’s school-to-work transition, teenage pregnancy, gender-based violence, quality of employment, female entrepreneurship and access to productive assets, and time spent on unpaid household work. Notably, a worrisome widening gap in young men’s likelihood to drop out of school is observed in several countries.

 

There is a low share of female graduates in STEM fields in LAC countries.

Percentage of female graduates from STEM programs in tertiary education, 2016-2018

Share of female graduates in STEM fields in Latin American and Caribbean countries
Source: World Bank Gender Statistics are taken from UNESCO Institute for Statistics. Notes: STEM includes science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and computer science.

 

 

Change is possible and can be promoted by deliberate interventions, as also shown in several recent LACGIL studies. Support to women-owned businesses, for instance, can boost sales and be highly cost-effective. In Mexico, modernization of brand value through low-cost consulting services had a return on investment (ROI) of 200 to 800 percent, while a soft skills complement to standard business training had a ROI of about 380 percent.

Also, the success of girls’ transitions from school to work can be improved. A work-study program in Uruguay enabled girls to break the gender earnings gap. After two years, their earnings equaled those of boys who did not participate in the program.

Many Latin American and Caribbean countries have taken steps to address gender gaps, but more work is needed. To ensure effective change, comprehensive evidence-driven reforms can go a long way to improve women’s productive and social inclusion, and the World Bank’s new gender scorecards can be a critical input to inform policies in this regard.

 

 

 

The LAC Regional Gender Coordination within the Poverty and Equity Global Practice, works to strengthen the integration of gender in analytics, operations and country-level engagement in order contribute to advancing gender equality in the region. It leads and oversees the implementation of the WBG’s LAC Gender Action Plan.

The LACGIL within the Poverty and Equity Global Practice, works in partnership with units across the World Bank, aid agencies and donors, governments, non-governmental organizations, private sector firms, and academic researchers. This work has been funded in part by the World Bank Group's Umbrella Facility for Gender Equality (UFGE), a multi-donor trust fund administered by the World Bank to advance gender equality and women's empowerment through experimentation and knowledge creation to help governments and the private sector focus policy and programs on scalable solutions with sustainable outcomes. The UFGE is supported by generous contributions from Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Latvia, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Wellspring Philanthropic Fund.

 


Authors

Daniela Maquera Sardón

Intern, Latin America and the Caribbean Inclusive Internship Program

Raquel Melgar Calderon

Consultant, Latin America and the Caribbean Gender Innovation Lab (LACGIL)

Jacobus de Hoop

Senior Economist in the World Bank’s Global Poverty and Equity Practice

Kavell Joseph

Consultant, Latin America and the Caribbean Gender Innovation Lab, Poverty and Equity Global Practice

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