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The Gender Knowledge Lab: a year catalyzing equality in Latin America. Perspectives and experiences from the private sector and civil society

Within the framework of the GLI Latam Forum 2023, we celebrate the first anniversary of the Gender Knowledge Lab, the consulting and technical assistance area of Pro Mujer dedicated to promoting gender mainstreaming in the Latin American business ecosystem. Working with public, private and civil society organizations, the GKL accompanies their transformation as agents of change and protagonists of gender equality as part of their agendas in the region.

Pro Mujer, a pioneering institution championing gender in Latin America, marked a milestone in 2022 by launching the Gender Knowledge Lab (GKL), a specialized consulting and technical assistance area that seeks to activate a profound gender transformation throughout the business and impact investing fabric in the region, supporting  institutions from all sectors and geographies in their process of mainstreaming the gender perspective.

The Gender Knowledge Lab incorporates Pro Mujer’s expertise, with more than three decades working to promote equal opportunities for women in different sectors of society. Responding to its founding values and principles, the GKL has sought to be a multipurpose space, which can bring the different angles of gender, diversity and inclusion to the multiple sectors and institutions that make up the economic, financial and social spectrum of the Latin American ecosystem, through a range of topics such as the development of financial products with a gender lens, the promotion of women’s leadership, micromachismos, inclusive language and the prevention of gender-based violence.

In just one year of operation, the GKL has managed to deeply impact Latin America and the Caribbean, reaching more than 18 countries in the region and working with more than 130 financial and non-financial organizations of different types and sizes: from organizations with global reach, such as the United States International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) or the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and interregional consortia, to NGOs, social enterprises and MSMEs, managing to impact more of 2,600 people through its workshops, training, mentoring and technical assistance processes.

This way, the Gender Knowledge Lab maintains a solid focus and a firm commitment to reverse the current situation of the productive market in Latin America, in which gender gaps heavily persist. Currently, women participate 23% less than men in the labor market, with a wage gap of at least 20 percentage points, according to the International Labor Organization. In addition, women continue to be underrepresented in leadership positions and only 15% of private companies in the region are led by a woman. The gaps in the labor market extend to the financial and investment sectors, since only 6% of investment funds in Latin America are directed to companies owned by women (International Finance Corporation) and it is estimated that 73% of SMEs led by women, cannot cover their financing needs (World Bank).

Within this context, it is imperative to promote conscientious changes in the gender paradigm, both among large regional institutions, as well as in organizational microcosms with local impact. For this reason, the Gender Knowledge Lab provides the market with the infrastructure, knowledge and experts necessary to promote transformative and impactful processes at a regional and international level, positioning Pro Mujer as a leading organization in gender issues at the highest spheres, while at the same time, having the capacity to democratize knowledge and promote changes throughout the entire continuum of capital in Latin America.

Under this premise, the GKL has facilitated courses and workshops, developed personalized technical assistance processes and action plans with gender lenses to organizations such as DFC, BID, Coca Cola Foundation / FUNDES, Innpactia, Mercado Pago, Daviplata, Bancolombia, Banco Inter, Alterna, among others, as well as forged alliances with peers such as Acrux Partners, Sweef Captial, Equilo and Deetken Impact, multiplying, thanks to the collaborative work, the impact in favor of equality in all latitudes. The work with these large institutions has allowed the GKL and Pro Mujer to expand the conversation and directly influence investment officers, financial organizations and hundreds of people from these diverse sectors, through methodologies specially designed to facilitate the knowledge acquisition of gender, inclusion and diversity, according to their particular needs.

The Gender Knowledge Lab has also led projects aimed at generating organizational changes in the MSME and social enterprise sectors in the region. Thanks to a collaboration between Pro Mujer and LeFil Consulting, and with the support of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and PES LATAM, more than 100 social companies from 16 Latin American countries were trained in gender issues; as well as through from the National Research and Innovation Agency (ANII), where with the support of BID and the Spanish Cooperation, 15 female entrepreneurs in the digital sector in Uruguay were trained. In Mexico, they provided training to the FUNDES network and designed personalized action plans to integrate the gender perspective in two organizations in southeastern Mexico that work with the indigenous population, thanks to the support of the Kellogg Foundation. Based on this experience, two case studies were published that included the learnings and challenges of incorporating gender in the civil society.

In addition to its fieldwork with people and organizations, the GKL has positioned itself as a leader not only in providing technical assistance and consulting, but also in developing valuable information to the ecosystem, reaffirming its commitment to creating open-access knowledge that fosters an innovative and interactive community, inviting more organizations to become part of the gender transformation. For this reason, during the first year of operations, various studies were carried out, such as the one carried out alongside the School of Public and International Affairs at Columbia University (SIPA, Columbia), which aims to provide a deep analysis of the barriers and opportunities of gender lens investing in Mexico.

Along the same lines, and with the aim of catalyzing existing knowledge on gender mainstreaming and gender lens investing, the GKL has two open access platforms that offer diagnostic, good practices, resource libraries, case studies, strategies and innovative tools aimed at contributing to GDEI (Gender, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) knowledge. The Gender Platform, developed in conjunction with Acrux Partners, compiles diagnostic tools, resources and relevant regional data on gender lens investing, as well as specific case studies from financial institutions in Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico and Nicaragua. The ILU toolbox, developed with support from USAID and in collaboration with Deetken Impact, compiles best practices and provides resources divided into four gender lenses to help companies address existing gender gaps within their organizations.

Finally, the narrative of the GKL was consolidated with the launch of its website, which serves as a hub of services and knowledge containing all the downloadable resources and the  comprehensive services offered by the lab, where it’s possible to access the GKL projects’ latest updates, their contact channels, their platforms, various educational case studies and a page of freely accessible resources and videos.

Proving to be an effective consulting and technical assistance platform, capable of promoting the consolidation of deep changes within organizations, Pro Mujer and the Gender Knowledge Lab endorse their call to all organizations interested in revolutionizing their way of doing business to continue working in favor of equality and diversity, strengthening their gender lenses, catalyzing impact and pushing for a fair and inclusive Latin America.

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