San José, April 30, 2021. With the aim of empowering, connecting and empowering Costa Rican women through foreign trade; the institutions of the sector – the Ministry of Foreign Trade (COMEX), the Foreign Trade Agency of Costa Rica and the Costa Rican Coalition of Development Initiatives (CINDE) – presented this morning a strategy that promotes gender equality and aims to enable more opportunities for this population.
Taking as a starting point goal #5 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations (UN), as well as the purpose of generating Sustainable Development for Costa Rica, which unites the three institutions of Foreign Trade, this strategy is launched which, in turn, responds to an important gap that exists in the country in terms of equal opportunities for women.
According to World Bank data, countries that provide greater economic opportunities for women are more competitive in the global economy, and the fact is that in Costa Rica 57% of people with university degrees are women, a percentage that is not proportional to the 38% female representation in national employment.
“We are aware that women face multiple barriers to getting involved in the country’s economy and that it requires the support of multiple sectors, not only the Foreign Trade sector. However, today we are presenting an ambitious strategy for our sector and we hope that this will help open more opportunities for the professional development of women in Costa Rica. That is why today, in addition to presenting this work plan that we will develop from the three institutions, we call on other sectors to form inter-institutional networks and work together to reduce gender gaps, involve more men as allies to the cause and promote inclusive and sustainable development,” said the Minister of Foreign Trade, Andrés Valenciano.
The sector’s strategy includes four strategic objectives:
Minister Valenciano added that the public policy objective includes a series of actions such as strategic alliances with governing entities interested in gender equality, participation in national and international forums to learn about and exchange good practices that promote women’s economic participation.
Micaela Mazzei, Chief of Staff of the Foreign Trade Agency of Costa Rica and one of the leaders of this strategy, explained that it is known that women-owned companies worldwide are more likely to export than import, and that they employ relatively more women, which is why we will work to strengthen the capacities of these companies and design programs and projects focused on the needs of this population.
“According to the study we did at the Foreign Trade Agency of Costa Rica in 2019, of the 100% of companies that export, only 14% are led by women, which represents only 2% of the country’s total exports. The same mapping showed the most common difficulties faced by women entrepreneurs, related to financing, productive transformation, business contacts, training, among others. We recognize the talent and export potential of the Costa Rican female population, so we are developing programs and concrete actions in response to these gaps, with the intention of providing the necessary support so that more Costa Rican businesswomen can take advantage of the opportunities generated by the foreign trade sector,” Mazzei added.
For her part, Paola Bulgarelli, Manager of Strategic Investment Climate Projects at CINDE and also one of the leaders of the sector strategy, added that the objective of generating employment for women goes beyond training women and giving them the tools they need for their insertion in the national economy. It also has an awareness-raising component in the private sector and groups of influence, which aims to have an impact on the culture of companies so that they are more aware that opportunities must be equal for women and men.
“Our goal is to increasingly encourage women to have equal access to the opportunities offered by the new knowledge economy. In 2020 alone, CINDE reported that 49% of the new jobs created by multinational companies attracted by the organization were filled by women; we want to replicate this in all sectors of the economy, starting with the foreign trade sector,” said Bulgarelli.
Finally, measurement, which is transversal to the three previous objectives, will develop measurement and traceability tools related to labor insertion, talent retention, new exporters, market diversification, among others, to begin to generate data and measure the impact of actions in order to make better decisions.
Gender inequality in numbers
|In the world||On average, employment rates are 20 percentage points lower for women than men (World Bank, 2020).|
|Information from the World Bank (2020) indicates that with the current situation of the COVID-19 pandemic, women-owned SMEs are 6 percentage points more likely to close than those led by men.|
|In Latin America, women represent 50% of the working population, however, they represent only 15% as entrepreneurs (IDB, 2020). In the world, 1 out of every 5 companies is owned by a woman.|
|In Costa Rica||The OECD study indicates that Costa Rica is lagging in financial inclusion; although financial access has increased, there are still significant gaps by region and gender.|
|57% of people with college degrees are women, but only 38% of employed people are women (Hernandez, 2020).|
|In 2017, approximately one million women of productive age were not gainfully employed. According to UCCAEP (2020) if these women entered the labor force the percentage would increase by 25-30%, poverty would be reduced from 20% to 11% and GDP would increase by 0.5%.|
|In CR there are 6 major sectors that absorb 80% of women’s participation: teaching, commerce, domestic employment, hotels and restaurants, communication and other services and manufacturing industry. According to INEC (2018) the wage percentage of women is 11% below that of men.|
|Reducing inequalities between men and women in the labor market could have a large impact on productivity and income. For example, it is estimated that the long-term loss of income due to the existence of gender inequalities in Costa Rica is 22%, compared to an average of 15.4% for OECD countries (Cuberes and Teignier, 2016).|
|From the mapping carried out in 2020 by the Foreign Trade Agency of Costa Rica, it was recorded that the greatest difficulties for companies led by women were high production costs, lack of financing options, and lack of business contacts; for exporting companies, the lack of business contacts, lack of knowledge of support institutions, and the buyer’s requirements stand out.|
|Reducing inequalities between men and women in the labor market could also have a large impact on productivity and income. For example, it is estimated that the long-term loss of income due to the existence of gender inequalities in Costa Rica is 22%, compared to an average of 15.4% for OECD countries.|
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