Knowledge Center

Women in the Workforce: Latin America and the Caribbean


The Population of Latin American and Caribbean Countries Is Aging1

The total population in 2015 in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) was 632,959,079.2

  • The elderly population (65 years and older) in Haiti, Bolivia, and Guatemala will be less than 7% of the total by 2030, while the elderly population of Colombia and Costa Rica are projected to more than double by the same year (12% and 14%, respectively).3

  • In Cuba, Argentina, and Uruguay, the elderly (ages 65 and older) is already 10% or more of the total population,  and by 2030 Cuba’s elderly will be close to one-quarter (23.5%) of the total population.4

Women Are Having Fewer Children5

Since 1960, birth rates have dropped from an average of six births to two (2.2) births in 2012.6

  • In LAC countries, women still start their families young. The drop in birth rate does not coincide with mothers waiting longer to marry or give birth to their first children, as it does in regions such with similar per capita incomes, such as Europe and Central Asia.7

The Percentage of Households Headed by Women Continues to Increase8


  • Educated women are the fastest-growing demographic of women who head households.9

  • Divorce in LAC is on the rise. An average of about 16% of women aged 45 to 49 are divorced or separated.10


Women Are the Majority of Those Completing Tertiary Education 
Percentage (%) of Population Completing Tertiary Education11
Country Women Men
Bahamas 17% 13%
Chile 11% 13%
Colombia 11% 10%
Cuba 16% 12%
Ecuador 11% 10%
Jamaica 8% 5%
Mexico 13% 15%
Venezuela 22% 15%


Labor Force

Women’s Labor Force Participation Has Increased Faster in LAC Than in Any Other Region of the World12

The rise in labor force participation of women in LAC since 1960 is comparable to the rise in women’s labor force participation in the United States between the years of 1890 and 1990.13

  • More than 53% of women participate in the labor force (as of 2012). This has grown from about 36% in 1980.14

  • The rate of change ranges from 15 percentage points in Costa Rica to 50 percentage points in Brazil.15

Between 1960 and 2010, the urban labor force participation rate of both married and single women was higher than that of rural women.16

In Latin America, over half of working-age women (100 million) participate in the formal labor force.17

  • Extreme poverty in Latin America has been reduced by 30% by the addition of women’s income to households.18

Despite Low Percentages of Women STEM Graduates, Latin America Leads the World in Women Employed in R&D19 

Over 40% (44.3%) of those working in research in Latin America were women in 2013 (the world average was 28.4%). 

  • In Argentina, 52.7% of researchers were women in 2012. 20

  • In Venezuela, 56.3% of researchers were women in 2012. 21



For Professionals and Above Only, Latin America Is Moving Towards Gender Parity22

17% of executives are women in Latin America, but this number is projected to be 44% by 2025 if the rates of new hires, advancements, and retention continue at the same pace (a percentage increase of over 150% in less than 10 years).23

  • Women make up 48% of the workforce in jobs with P&L responsibilities.24

Although women hold 18% of senior-leadership roles,  more than half (52%) of all businesses have no female representation at that level.25

Women Remain Underrepresented on Corporate Boards26

In 2015, just 6.4% of board seats in Latin America were held by women. 27

  • Quotas are not a popular option in Latin America. 28

Country % Board Seats Held by Women29
Chile 3.8%
Colombia 7.0%
Brazil 6.3%
Mexico 6.2%


Women are Underrepresented in Political Power
Country30 % Women in Lower
or Single House
% Women Upper House
or Senate
Argentina 35.8% 41.7%
Brazil 9.9% 16%
Colombia 19.9% 22.5%
Costa Rica 33.3% --



Additional Resources

Catalyst, Women in the Workforce: Mexico.

Anna Beninger, Today’s Mexican High Potentials at Work (Catalyst, 2015).

Catalyst, First Step: Mexico (2014).

Alixandra Pollack, Dnika J. Travis, and Erica L. Lizano, Corporate Landscape in Mexico: Understanding Approaches to Talent Management and Women’s Inclusion (Catalyst, 2014).


How to cite this product: Catalyst. Quick Take:Women in the Workforce: Latin America and the Caribbean (New York:December 5, 2016).