Best and Worst Places for Women Entrepreneurs in Latin America and the Caribbean

Women selling in market (IITA Image Library)

Women selling in market
(IITA Image Library)

The Inter-American Development Bank’s Multilateral Investment Fund (IDB/MIF) has issued a study which ranks Latin American and Caribbean countries based on risks to and support for women entrepreneurs. Highlights of the study presented in this slideshow rank the countries from first to twentieth place in this slideshow.

Jamaica, my country of origin, was ranked 20th. To persons who are familiar with the prevalence of women in all areas of Jamaican business and society, this low ranking will seem surprising. Women, for example, comprise 70% of the country’s university students and 50% of its workforce; they occupy management positions at various levels of society, including a female Prime Minister who is serving for the second time.

So, if visibility of women is not enough to secure top ranking, what are the other factors that the study authors considered? I have divided them into three categories:

Category 1: Societal Conditions

  • Overall strength of the economy, as measured by fiscal conditions, level of investor confidence,
  • Political factors, such as degree of political and institutional stability and the presence of good governance
  • Degree of corruption

Category 2: Support for Micro & Small Entrepreneurs

The majority of women entrepreneurs in Latin America and the Caribbean (indeed developing and emerging countries as a whole) operate micro and small to medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) and so the availability of the following factors can play a huge role in determining success:

  • Ability of MSMEs to access credit
  • Access to technology and to technical support by MSMEs
  • Favorability of tax rates for MSMEs
  • Legal structure supporting MSMEs
  • Costs of starting and expanding a business

Category 3: Support for Women in Business

The following factors can speak volumes about the level of support that exists for women entrepreneurs:

  • Extent of access to business associations and enterprises
  • Levels of female enrolment in vocational programs
  • Extent of crime and security risks
  • Extension of property rights to women
  • Access to and/or level of spending on social services, i.e. child support and for taking care of the elderly

While a country need not have all of these factors in place to be ranked highly as a good place for women entrepreneurs, it must be able to provide evidence of societal support across all three categories. This was clearly evident in Chile, which ranked #1 for the following reasons: (1) good fiscal conditions, political and institutional stability, strong investor confidence, and perceptions of good governance; (2)  high access to technology; and (3) good security conditions and adequate access to social services.

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