We are also focusing on gender equality and diversity with our clients across every sector.
We offer a range of financial products and advisory services that will help clients step up their game and provide more opportunities for women in the workplace, the marketplace and the community, as leaders, employees, entrepreneurs and consumers.
One of our goals is to expand financing options for women in business, through loans and other financial products. We offer loan guarantees, sharing risk with banks and other lenders in the region that want to provide financing to women-led small businesses and ensure that they are part of corporate supply chains. On the equity front, we invest in companies and initiatives that promote gender equality. And we provide investment opportunities in capital markets, offering bonds linked to positive gender outcomes.
In some cases, we may use concessional resources and grants to provide gender-related incentives. For example, a company could see a better interest rate on a loan when it achieves certain targets on gender equality and diversity.
Through our advisory services, we work with clients who are interested in putting gender equality into practice, whether at the office or on the factory floor. We may conduct in-house training, help design mentorship programs or carry out confidential baseline assessments to identify areas for improvement. We help companies meet national and international standards on gender equality and obtain certification; this can raise awareness, drive internal change and attract high-caliber employees.
IDB Invest even helped to create an assessment tool that companies can use to see how they’re doing on gender equality. Called the Women’s Empowerment Principles Gap Analysis Tool, or WEPs Tool, it was designed jointly by the United Nations Global Compact, UN Women, IDB Invest and the Multilateral Investment Fund, which is also part of the IDB Group. The WEPs Tool is available online, free of charge, and is used by companies around the world.
Here are some of the ways we take gender equality into consideration in different sectors:
Financial Institutions: We provide financing and technical assistance to a range of lenders in the region—not just banks, but cooperatives, microfinance institutions and others—so that they can more effectively reach underserved markets. This includes small businesses led by women, who tend to have a harder time obtaining access to credit than their male counterparts.
We also help financial institutions improve their own policies and procedures to promote a culture of equality and diversity. This will not only strengthen their own financial performance, but prepare them to better serve all their clients.
Infrastructure: Looking at infrastructure through a gender lens provides a more complete picture of challenges and solutions. To take a simple example, a project to expand public transit needs to consider how to make the system safer for female riders.
A good first step toward finding gender-focused solutions is to hire a diverse staff. We work with companies to create internships and training programs that will encourage young women to pursue disciplines related to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). A 2014 IDB study found that only 11 percent of Latin American female graduates of higher education have degrees in STEM fields.
Corporates: In every sector—whether agribusiness, manufacturing, tourism or telecommunications—companies can benefit from a thorough assessment to determine how they can improve their productivity and spur innovation by creating a fairer work environment.
Because of historical disparities, many efforts focus on women, but gender equality applies across the board. For example, making family-friendly policies such as parental leave available to men as well as women can increase employee retention and strengthen recruitment. The more that men and women alike can rise to their full potential, the better it is for business.