Isabel Saint Malo is one of the women who stand out in the list of the 50 Most Powerful Women in the Forbes Magazine Region. Since she was elected Vice President of Panama in 2014, being the first woman in that position, she pushed in her country and in international bodies such as the World Economic Forum (WEF) an agenda of equity, in which women Latin American women are the main agents of change.
The also Minister of Foreign Affairs of Panama is convinced that greater participation of women in positions of leadership in the public sphere increases the effectiveness of organizations and boosts the development of nations.
“Having more women is a good business, and the economy is the one that loses if there is wage inequality, and this is what the WEF says, which has numerous studies in this regard,” the Vice President considers.
In an interview with Forbes, Isabel Saint Malo elaborates on this topic and explains the reasons why women participate in public and private organizations is more than a matter of justice and equity.
-What are the specific contributions that women make when occupying leadership positions?
A recent WEF report notes that world GDP could increase by $ 5.3 trillion by 2025 if the gender gap in the economy improves by 25%.
Therefore, if we are consistent with the ideal of fulfilling the UN’s 2030 development agenda, we must include the entire population and women today is more than 50% of it and not part of the decision and influence tables. . I have always argued that this issue, rather than being a right or issue of justice, is a development issue that makes sense for the economy.
-If there is such a wide equity gap that you mention, what is the diagnosis of Latin American women today?
Latin America is one of the regions with the greatest challenges to achieve equity for women, including equal pay. Panama does not escape from it; as in the region, women charge less because they have less access and work fewer hours in the labor market.
The difference worldwide is 27% and in a country like Panama it reaches almost 30 points. Unemployment rates are also higher, as is the concentration of women in part-time work.
They charge less because a substantial part of the work they do is not remunerated, it’s free. In Panama, three quarters of domestic work and unpaid care is performed by women. Women responsible for the care of children, fathers and mothers.
Women are overrepresented in sectors where there is less gain and they have little presence in key sectors of the knowledge economy, such as careers and STEM professions, related to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.
-What public policies or actions has the current government taken to promote the empowerment of Panamanian women?
We have promoted Law 56 of 2017 that establishes the participation of women in the State boards of directors and of regulated companies at 30%, which is still not enough but is an important advance in the transformation of corporate organizations and cultures.
We are also promoting the Seal of Gender Equality in Panamanian Companies that aims to create policies in the private sector that ensure participation in equity between men and women.
Panama is the second country in the region to launch the Program of Emerging Women Leaders in the Public Sector, together with the Inter-American Development Bank, and we maintain alliances framed on this issue with international organizations such as the World Economic Forum, the IDB, the ILO and UN Women.
An example of these is the Public-Private Task Force, made up of executive directors, ministers and leaders of civil society, where with the support of the IDB, actions and policies will be promoted that increase the economic participation and progress of women in the country. working market.
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-What progress does it represent for women the approval of the law that requires that at least 30% of the boards of state companies be made up of women?
Law 56 of 2017 that establishes the participation of women in the State boards of directors and regulated companies at 30% contributes significantly to the economic empowerment of women by increasing their opportunities in leadership positions.
This represents a further step towards equality between men and women in Panama, where less than 10% is the percentage of women’s participation in the boards of companies with commercial activities and in the banking sector.
In 2014, for example, and in the present government administration, the National Bank, the main state bank, appointed