Our Summer issue is dedicated to one of the most pressing issues facing the hemisphere and the global community: gender equality and the economic and political empowerment of women. We will never fully unleash the potential of our hemisphere as long as we fail to meaningfully engage half of its population. In Latin America, women have achieved parity in access to education and healthcare, but have yet to attain political and economic parity. As our Charticle (p.80) highlights, women account for only 10.5 percent of board positions globally and 7.2 percent in emerging markets. In Latin America, the percentage is even smaller.
According to Catalyst, only 39 Fortune 500 companies boast female chief executives-and in most Latin American countries, the number hardly rates a mention.
Many of the articles featured in this issue focus on the challenges of, and the progress made in, advancing gender equality across the region. Today Latin America and the Caribbean have five female presidents-more than any other region in the world-yet the surge of women at the top has not translated into broader political empowerment. According to the World Economic Forum's 2011 Global Gender Gap Index, only 18 percent of the gap in political empowerment has been closed. While many consider quotas to be the answer, Magda Hinojosa (p.90) argues that lasting change can only come from a commitment by Latin American political parties, civil society organizations and even the state to identify, promote and train potential women candidates. Females aspiring for judicial positions would benefit from similar support. As Sital Kalantry argues (p.82), diversity in the courts is critical to advancing women's rights as well as to strengthening the rule of law across the region.
But it is the economic empowerment of women that is so critical. It is the common thread among the challenges that must be addressed if we are to make a real and lasting impact in Latin America. As Michelle Bachelet highlights in her article (p.62), economic empowerment is important to reduce poverty, achieve universal education and improve maternal and child health. She and Amb. Melanne Verveer (p.74) note it is also the key to reducing gender-based violence. If women are economically dependent, they cannot escape violence against themselves and their children.
Women's economic empowerment needs to be addressed at every level of society-from the most impoverished to the most educated. …