If women massively incorporated to the work force, the region's GDP would increase up to 34 percent
In Latin America, where only 50.3 percent of women participate in economic activities (men reach 78.9 percent), there is still a long road ahead. It is more than proven that the full participation of women in public life, and in economic, political, and legal acivities, has enormous benefits for all societies.
In fact, if it had not been for the incorporation of 70 million women to the labor market in the past 20 years, we could hardly speak today about the Latin American economic miracle, the one which achieved average growth rates of close to 5 percent between 2002 and 2008, while at the same time it drastically reduced extreme poverty and allowed the middle class to grow at historic levels.
Considering the potential that women have to revitalize the economy of countries, it seems evident that betting on their economic empowerment is an efficient and safe way to guarantee sustainable growth rates. In Latin America, where only 50.3 percent of women participate in economic activities (men reach 78.9 percent) there is still a long road ahead.
Currently there are still social, economic, and legal barriers that prevent women from showing all their potential and participating fully in public life. For example, in Latin America women participate in one fourth of the public positions in the state powers (Executive, Legislative, Judicial), while in countries such as Finland, Iceland, Holland, and Sweden, their parliamentary representation reaches 40 percent. In addition, in Latin America women can earn up to 19 percent less than men when doing the same job.
Violeta Dominguez, coordinator of the gender unit at CAF, Development Bank of Latin America, states that, "Economic dependence and insufficient incomes are two of the factors that have the largest impact on keeping women in situations of violence and the perpetuation of inequality. For this reason, to efficiently combat gender inequalities in Latin America, it is essential to bet on the economic empowerment of women".
In this respect, the multilateral organization is promoting actions so that women can improve their econoic autonomy and their leadership capacities, another element that should become an agent of social, economic, and political change. The initiatives are focused on the promotion and creation of more products to increase financial literacy among women and in the creation of entrepreneurial programs to promote the concept of them having their own incomes.
In any case, experts agree that it is essential to add legal and political actions to the economic and leadership empowerment of women. In other words, it is necessary to aim at their economic, physical, and political autonomy. Despite the fact that 20 countries of Latin America and the Caribbean have laws dealing with violence against women, only eight of these countries assign specific resources in their national budgets. In addition, 14 countries have typified the crime of femicide, but only two have established it as aggravated homicide for gender reasons.
Dominguez explains, "Governments, companies, and the civil society must work jointly so that the social, economic, judicial, and legal measures that are currently in place may be efficient and have a positive impact on all the social and political spheres".
There are several examples around the world of how to reduce gender inequalities. Among the ones that stand out, are the establishment of participation quotas in decision making spaces both in the political and economic areas, generating financing systems aimed at the political training of women, to guarantee their capacity to assume leadership roles; or promote regulations aimed at having political parties include gender parity in their internal organizational structure.
The problem of gender inequality not only affects women, but rather the whole society, the economy, and the development of countries. For this reason, if we intend Latin America to be a more democratic and equalitarian region in the near future, it is essential that all citizens become aware of the importance of gender equity.