A Look into Prevalence of Gender Disparity in Latin American & Caribbean Governments

By: GWL Team | Wednesday, 31 May 2023

Despite improvements in gender equality, there is still a critical need to address the continuing underrepresentation of women in positions of power. The development of a truly inclusive society is hampered by this conceptual divide. The many reasons causing this occurrence have its roots in structural, historical, and socio-cultural prejudices that support gender inequality. 

Proactive steps such as targeted policies, mentorship programs, and questioning social norms are needed to address structural hurdles, unconscious biases, and gender stereotypes that limit women's access to positions of influence. Empowering women to hold important decision-making roles can lead to more equal and successful outcomes.

According to Grant Thornton International research from 2021 titled "Women in Business: Beyond Policy to Progress," there are 31 per cent of women in senior leadership roles globally on average.

According to recent research by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), women continue to be underrepresented in key decision-making positions within national governments throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.

The report recommends a more ambitious gender equality goal in the public sector to nurture female talent and reap the financial rewards of having women in leadership roles. This includes incorporating gender policy, removing obstacles to formal parity, and improving oversight of women's presence in leadership positions.

Insights from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Research

Women make up 52 per cent of the total government workforce, according to a study titled "Women Leaders in the Public Sector in Latin America and the Caribbean" that was based on data from 15 countries in the region. However, only 23.6 per cent of women hold top-level positions that are equivalent to ministerial positions.

At lower levels, this discrepancy still exists, but to a smaller extent: women occupy 44.2 per cent of director-equivalent positions.

"The region's public sector needs a more ambitious gender equality agenda to leverage female talent for development," said Susana Cordeiro Guerra, the IDB's Institutions for growth manager.

"Numerous studies confirm that having women in leadership positions in government brings many economic benefits and advances further goals of service coverage, as well as efficiency and efficacy," she continued.

At the 12 government organizations considered for the research, women hold an average of 41.4 per cent of the leadership posts.

Even in nations where the proportion of female leaders is higher, vertical segregation—where women do not advance to leadership roles—and horizontal segregation—where women only succeed in the top positions in industries linked with conventional gender stereotypes—remain. Women are more prevalent in historically female-dominated industries like education and health (45.4 per cent) than in traditionally male-dominated industries like finance and defence (38.1 per cent).

Strategies to Improve Women’s Participation in Government

Other than pointing out the details of the discrepancies in women’s representation in the government sector, the report also makes recommendations for improving the representation of women in leadership roles.

The first strategy it suggests is by establishing precise and quantifiable gender objectives and developing strategic selection procedures. This can be the first step to remove obstacles to formal parity in positions of decision-making.

The second suggestion made by the report is to improve institutional capacities so that gender policies may be incorporated into all facets of the public sector. It also suggests that human resource management should be gender-based.

In order to facilitate continued monitoring and improved decision-making, the research concludes by urging the quarterly publication of disaggregated data on the presence of women in public-sector leadership positions.

The information utilized in this study's first edition was gathered between December 2021 and March 2022.

Based on a mix of responses from the 15 nations, secondary sources, and expert discussions, particularly concerning budgetary issues, the data from the 15 countries were analysed at the national level. The report also includes a review of the regional 26 IDB member nations' legislative frameworks.