The promotion of public policies to foster equality, reduce the gender gap and guarantee women's rights is a priority task in the public agendas of Latin American and Caribbean countries. The gender gap in the labour sphere in the region continues to represent an obstacle to the insertion of women in highly skilled and leadership sectors; figures published by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) in 2021 show that women held only 15% of managerial positions and owned 14% of companies in the region.

Furthermore, although MSMEs represent 99.5% of the total business fabric and generate more than half of formal productive employment in the region, the 2021 data reported by the SME Finance Forum show that 13% of formal micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) in Latin America and the Caribbean are owned or led by women. This figure reflects, in part, the obstacles faced by women entrepreneurs in creating, developing, and expanding their businesses.

It should be noted, however, that women start businesses for different reasons than men. Women usually start a business out of necessity, while men do it out of opportunity. This also conditions the motivation and resources available to grow the business. Still, the region has high rates of female entrepreneurship. At least 1 in 5 women are starting or managing a business, compared to 1 in 20 women in Europe or North America (IDB, 2023).

In this regard, training programmes should consider technical skills training, as well as soft skills training, which addresses psychosocial issues and promotes not only women's economic independence, but also their physical independence. It should be noted that entrepreneurial resilience is key to sustaining women's entrepreneurship, as well as fostering sisterhood and mentoring programmes; mentoring by women for women to promote a more effective female entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Furthermore, access to financing continues to be one of the major obstacles to the development of women's entrepreneurship, considering that there is little information on these programmes, low flexibility in credit conditions, lack of guarantees and, in some cases, a limited policy aimed at strengthening women's entrepreneurial role.

Women entrepreneurs are active agents of change to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda. Despite recent progress in strengthening women's entrepreneurship, there are significant differences in the number of women and men who own and manage micro, small and medium-sized enterprises. In this context, public institutions responsible for the design, implementation, and monitoring of public policies with a gender perspective should continue to strengthen their work and research in order to shape strategies that promote an increase in the number of women-owned businesses. Within the framework of the implementation of SELA's Work Programme for 2023-2026, the gender approach has a cross-cutting connotation with special emphasis on the SELA-SMEs programme, whose purpose is to contribute to the reduction of the gender gap, promote practices that encourage the inclusion of women in non-traditional sectors, and foster more equitable spaces at the regional level.

  1. Present the progress and challenges in the strategies implemented by Latin American and Caribbean countries for the reduction of the gender gap and women's equality.
  2. Disseminate the initiatives that have been developed by the public sector to promote women's entrepreneurship.
  3. Generate a space for discussion to identify strengths and weaknesses in the regional strategy for gender equality in the labour market.
  4. Present the training strategy with a gender perspective for 2023 programmed by SELA.
Event Information
  • Date: 30 May 2023.
  • Time: 10:00 am – 12:00 pm (Caracas, Venezuela)
  • Modality: virtual
  • Registration:
  • Profile of participants: public officials involved in the development of programmes and strategies for the  reduction of the gender gap, those responsible for the  implementation of programmes to support women's  entrepreneurship at the regional level, entrepreneurs and  representatives of NGOs that aid women, and  representatives of international organisations.
  • Language: English and Spanish (simultaneous interpretation)

Tuesday, 30 May 2023.

Time Activities
10:00 – 10:10

Opening session

  • Ambassador Clarems Endara, Permanent Secretary of the Latin American and Caribbean Economic System (SELA)
  • Luis Álvarez Soto, Founding Partner, Executive Director of the Latin American Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CELIEM)
10:10 – 10:50

The gender gap in Latin America and the Caribbean: a look at progress and challenges

Moderator: Karla Sanchez, Analyst of Economic Recovery at the Latin American and Caribbean Economic System (SELA)

  • Nidia Hidalgo, Lead Specialist of the Gender and Diversity Division at the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB)
  • David Cabrera, Executive Director of the Regional Centre for the Promotion of Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (CENPROMYPE)
  • Natalia Tanno, Lawyer and specialist in public procurement, Judge in the administrative, tax and consumer relations courts of the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires (CABA).
  • Rocío Arrúa, Specialist in Gender Perspective at the Instituto de Formación Política y Gestión Pública, Assistant Professor in the Specialisation in Public Procurement and Director of Revista Rueda of Argentina.
10:50 – 11:40

Panel: Public policies with a gender perspective: advances in support programmes for Latin American MSMEs 

Panellists: participants of the first Diploma Course for Public Management of MSMEs Programmes with a Gender Approach.

Moderator: Luis Álvarez Soto, Founding Partner, Executive Director of the Latin American Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CELIEM)

Participation of graduates of the first Diploma Course:

  • Carolina Maldonado, Director for the Equality of Women and Men in Economic Life at the National Institute for Women (INM) Mexico.
  • Melissa Rodríguez, Head of the Department for the Promotion of Competitiveness of MSMEs at the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and MSMEs (MICM) of the Dominican Republic.
  • Patricia Romero, Director of the Specialised Gender Unit at the Ministry of Industry, Energy and Mining (MIEM) of the Eastern Republic of Uruguay.
11:40 – 12:00

Questions and answers


Closing session

Ambassador Clarems Endara, Permanent Secretary of the Latin American and Caribbean Economic System (SELA)