Chile

Population: 
17,772,871
Number of Business Networks: 10
Number of Private Sector Initiatives: 15
Number of Government Services: 14
Labor Force Participation Rate: 
55

Introduction

Chile’s commitment in recent years to increasing the economic participation of women has produced notable results. More...

Chile’s commitment in recent years to increasing the economic participation of women has produced notable results. The ratio of women’s participation in the economy to that of men has increased from 41.8 percent in 1990 to 65.7 percent in 2012. Although the rate of women’s labor market participation (aged 15 or older)—49%, as of 2012—remains low, especially for the OECD, of which Chile is the only member from South America, the trend since 2000 has been upward. Advances do not yet permeate all corners of society, but women in Chile are increasingly prepared to build enterprises that create jobs and trade domestically and across borders. Women’s education at all levels, along with access to credit, networks, markets, and training, has improved markedly.

On March 8, 2015—International Women’s Day—Chile’s President announced the establishment of the Ministry of Women and Gender Equality, underscoring the government’s commitment to supporting gender equality in all aspects of daily life, including with respect to economic participation. The creation of the Ministry elevated the status of the Servicio Nacional de la Mujer (National Women's Service) (SERNAM), an agency established in 1991 to support the rights of women and to improve conditions in which they live. And as of 2015, the government’s Agenda for Productivity, Innovation and Growth includes targets for women’s economic participation, including through regulatory changes on property within marriage and efforts to improve married women’s legal and financial autonomy. A state-sponsored program for women entrepreneurs, Crece Mujer, was established in 2015 and further seeks to improve access to finance and related services for women entrepreneurs, contributing to the strengthening, development, and growth of their businesses. These new programs complement past efforts by the government to strengthen Chile’s business environment generally and assist women in particular in launching and growing their own businesses.

At the same time, cultural expectations run deep in Chile about how women, especially single mothers and married women with children, must spend their time. Most often, men are the primary breadwinners, often returning home late, leaving women to prepare meals, clean the house, and look after children. Many men live apart from their families, especially those who work in Chile's extractive industries. Professional work schedules in Chile are notoriously inflexible and long (averaging more than 40 hours per week), although the incidence of part-time employment has increased significantly in this decade. Rates of women’s economic participation are directly proportional to their economic status; poorer women are less active in Chile’s economy than women of greater economic means.

Still, entrepreneurship is increasingly viewed as a viable option for women’s livelihoods in Chile, in particular as a means of supplementing family income. In 2013, the Inter-American Development Bank hailed Chile as providing the most supportive environment for female entrepreneurs in Latin America and the Caribbean, citing robust economic fundamentals and political and institutional stability as sources of investor confidence and micro, small and medium-sized enterprise (MSME) activity. In 2014, the Gender Global Entrepreneurship Development Index (Gender GEDI) ranked Chile 5th out of 30 world economies it reviewed for conditions that foster high-potential female entrepreneurship development, noting that Chile’s promising environment compares favorably to several economies with considerably higher GDPs.

The government’s latest gender initiatives will face a number of challenges specifically with respect to women who work in private enterprise. Well over half of Chile’s 1.7 million businesses remain informal —which in Chile turns on whether they report their activities to the Internal Revenue Service—and, among the 900,000 or so that are formally established, four-fifths are essentially sole proprietorships. As underscored by the Gender GEDI, the rate of women’s engagement in formal banking is just around 40%—a number that starkly limits their access to capital—and women’s participation in Chile’s dynamic environment for technology start-ups is notably low. Moreover, although nearly a third of Chile’s formal enterprises appear to have at least partial ownership by women, the presence of women in high-level management positions remains low—just 4.5%, according to the World Bank’s 2010 survey of more than 1000 enterprises

Although there is considerable room to grow the universe of business networks that women and their enterprises have access to in Chile, the economy starts with a solid foundation. First, Chile’s commercial infrastructure includes a great many trade and business associations—most with economy-wide representation and regional or local affiliates—that supply their members with important contacts, information, advocacy services, and more. In the majority of these, women are not particularly well represented, although in certain sectors and local affiliates—tourism and local chambers of commerce, for example—their influence is growing.

Second, Chile’s tradition of social networks among women—including religious organizations, civic associations, and student groups—is deeply entrenched and easily accessible to most women. Enterprises owned by women are active on social media, including Facebook, WhatsApp Messenger, LinkedIn, and others, and women business-owners routinely contact one another, and their customers, through the Internet and mobile telephones. Thus, most women in Chile are experienced working in networks in a way that bolsters their ability to construct and take advantage of business networks.

Third, the Chilean government, through its Servicio Nacional de la Mujer (National Women's Service) (SERNAM) and a number of other agencies, proactively engages women who seek to develop networks that may strengthen their base of customers and increase their business opportunities. SERNAM’s training programs help women—in particular, heads of households—develop trade associations, and regional offices provide a great many services, including meeting space for women who are launching enterprise associations and afterschool childcare for working families.

For women operating formal enterprises that employ workers other than their family members, the independent network of women entrepreneurs, Mujeres Empresarias, is an especially strong example of a business network that supports its members on several levels. Members include diverse business representatives, including buyers, sellers, and professionals who work along a variety of value chains. The group has the confidence of many multinational companies and Chile’s traditional, male-dominated trade associations often serve as sources of expertise, connections, and talent. On the other hand, the independent networks that support smaller and/or informal women-owned enterprises tend to be launched with much more limited resources. These networks would benefit from continued efforts to increase membership diversity; train members in traditional and contemporary marketing skills; hone general business skills, including with respect to financial management, customer service, and quality control; and connect members to value chains that will allow them to expand their enterprises.   

Networks that support women’s access to capital and assets: 

Founded in 1945, Banca has 36 members: 24 local banks and 12 foreign banks with Chilean branches. Among the association’s objectives is to promote and strengthen relations among members, study and propose economic measures that allow the banking industry to contribute to...more

Networks that support women’s access to markets: 

The Chilean chapter of the international FBN is hosted by the Universidad del Desarrollo and was established to build connections among family-owned businesses. The organization offers training, shared benefits (such as insurance), and...more

An association of companies and trade associations representing Chile’s industrial sector, SOFOFA is gradually opening up to female participation and influence. Established in the 19th century, SOFOFA has 2,500 member companies, ...more

Established by a small group of Chilean businesswomen in 2001, Mujeres Empresarias is now a large, membership-based organization that represents formal, growth-oriented firms owned by women, particularly those under 35, and also serves female professionals and managers....more

Chile has a strong tradition of trade and business associations—most with economy-wide representation and regional or local affiliates—that supply members with important contacts, information, advocacy services, and more. These organizations have not traditionally...more

Networks that support strengthened capacity and skills for women in business: 

Since 1966, CONUPIA has provided networking and training opportunities for entrepreneurs throughout Chile. An estimated 75% of the entrepreneurs who participate in CONUPIA’s courses today are women. Subjects covered by the organization’s programs include project...more

Networks that support women’s leadership, voice and agency: 

WCD is a global organization of women who serve on more than 2,600 boards of directors worldwide. With the support of various international corporations, WCD connects senior women in the private sector with one another across the globe, supports the development of their...more

Networks that support women and innovation and technology: 

The membership of ACTI, Chile’s main IT industry association, consists of companies producing or providing hardware, software, training, systems integration, and internet services. Among other functions, ACTI is an operating agent for CORFO (Chile's state development...more

Engaging Meetup.com as a platform for reaching technical innovators, entrepreneurs and professionals, New Tech Santiago hosts social gatherings and information-sharing sessions every two weeks. Presenting its meet-ups as Santiago's “...more

In December 2013, a chapter of Women Who Code was established in Chile, linking the economy to one of the largest communities of women software engineers in the world. The organization, which is fostered through Meetup.com, is a global...more

Compared to the other areas examined through this inquiry—business networks and government services—private-sector initiatives for strengthening women’s economic participation in Chile are hard to find. Several banks and other financial institutions have programs that recognize the special needs of women entrepreneurs and serve women who are striving to build their small enterprises into larger concerns. Most other private initiatives focused on women and the economy are rooted in non-government organizations and are covered in this section. Few private companies are explicitly diversifying their supply chains by accessing women-owned enterprises or to improve entrepreneurial or management opportunities for women. Although enterprises of all sizes are known to participate in internships or partnerships with government or universities that seek their support, there is ample room for companies to launch their own initiatives that signal their commitment to women’s economic empowerment and strengthen women’s access to capital, markets, and skills.

Initiatives that support women’s access to capital and assets: 

At least 20 banks and cooperative institutions in Chile help rural and urban women access microloans and other types of financing for their enterprises. Chile’s banks offer a range of micro and standard loans, depending on the size of the business involved. ...more

A private nonprofit that focuses on helping women take advantage of Chile’s economic advances, FINAM is affiliated with Women's World Banking. FINAM offers business training for the purpose of strengthening women’s...more

A private foundation established in 2000, Fondo Esperanza supports Chile’s vulnerable communities, identified in 2012 by the government as 14.4% of the population (15.5% women; 13.3% men). Women represent about 85% of the approximately 100,000 individuals and businesses...more

The Global Women Entrepreneur Leaders (GWEL) Scorecard, sponsored by Dell Inc. and produced by ACG Inc., is a new data driven diagnostic tool that identifies the impediments to high impact female entrepreneurship and introduces actionable steps that can be taken to...more

Initiatives that support women’s access to markets: 

In 2012, the wood and wood products producer Arauco launched AcercaRedes, a network of three business development centers far from Chile’s main urban areas. The centers are equipped with computers, access to the internet, and other resources, and serve as a meeting point...more

A small, private, women-owned company, BC&B was formed to help Chilean women who have graduated from college return to the workforce following a period of absence. Recognizing the common decision of professional women to leave the workforce following the birth of a...more

The Global Women Entrepreneur Leaders (GWEL) Scorecard, sponsored by Dell Inc. and produced by ACG Inc., is a new data driven diagnostic tool that identifies the impediments to high impact female entrepreneurship and introduces actionable steps that can be taken to...more

Since it acquired a majority stake in Distribución y Servicio D&S S.A. in 2009, Walmart Chile has become one of the economy’s leading food retailers. Headquartered in Santiago, it operates in several formats, including hypermarkets, supermarkets, and Ekono...more

WEConnect International in Chile identifies, educates, registers, and certifies women's business enterprises that are at least 51% owned, managed, and controlled by one or more women.In Chile, WEConnect International is working with...more

Initiatives that support strengthened capacity and skills for women in business: 

A private, nonprofit organization, ComunidadMujer aspires to represent women of all socioeconomic levels and to promote women’s leadership and political participation. ComunidadMujer promotes women’s access to networks, training, and conferences to improve leadership...more

WEConnect International in Chile identifies, educates, registers, and certifies women's business enterprises that are at least 51% owned, managed, and controlled by one or more women.In Chile, WEConnect International is working with...more

Initiatives that support women’s leadership, voice and agency: 

Established in 2011, BOW is an experimental executive education program implemented through the Universidad del Desarrollo. Since 2012, the program has engaged 60 professional women each year to serve as board directors of start-ups and/...more

Founded in 1984, the Centro de Estudios de la Mujer conducts research, trains women, offers consulting services, and works to increase women's political participation. The organization’s Women, Work and Employment Program researches gender relations in the...more

Since 1987, Fundacion Instituto has worked to diminish social, economic, and political inequality that women face in Chile. The organization’s mission is to develop strategies for incorporating women into public spaces, including through political empowerment.more

The Global Women Entrepreneur Leaders (GWEL) Scorecard, sponsored by Dell Inc. and produced by ACG Inc., is a new data driven diagnostic tool that identifies the impediments to high impact female entrepreneurship and introduces actionable steps that can be taken to...more

The founding office of an NGO that now spans Latin America and the Caribbean, Techo’s mission is to find housing or build homes for the very poor. This work includes not only improving housing alternatives within existing slums, but also encouraging entrepreneurial...more

Initiatives that support women and innovation and technology: 

In 2014, Chile hosted its first Rails Girls workshop, a free opportunity for women to learn the Ruby on Rails open-source development framework. Supported by private sector donors (primarily Groupon...more

Since its return to democracy in 1991, Chile’s government has committed significant resources to increasing opportunities for women to participate and prosper in the economy. Across several cabinet agencies, including the Ministry of Women and Gender Equality, established in 2015, the government sponsors or supports programs that broaden women’s access to training and promotes opportunities for credit and market access necessary for women to expand their enterprises.

The Ministry of Women and Gender Equality is scheduled to be fully operational by 2016. It will assume all functions of the Servicio Nacional de la Mujer/National Women's Service, Ministry of Planning and Cooperation. Established in 1991, the mission of SERNAM is to “design, propose and coordinate policies, plans, measures and legal reforms, through and with the various ministries and services, to guarantee  equal rights and opportunities between men and women on the public agenda incorporating the issues affecting women and the family.” SERNAM’s primary objectives have included mainstreaming of gender equality; employment of women; increased women’s participation in political decisions; and prevention of domestic violence. SERNAM remains engaged in numerous activities that support working women, including extension of maternal and parental leave, implementation of a “4 to 7” program that provides child care for working mothers, and development of a standard for certification of businesses on work-life balance. SERNAM has long encouraged the collection and publication of sex-disaggregated statistics by government agencies and the private sector. Between 2010 and 2014, its budget increased by more than 20 percent.

Once it is fully established, the Ministry of Women and Gender Equality will design, coordinate and evaluate policies, plans and programs that promote gender equality and seek to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women. It will also oversee the work of the Interministerial Committee for Equal Rights and Gender Equality, which is charged with integrating a gender perspective across all government programs. In addition, the Ministry will operate a fund for gender equity that finances projects, programs, education, and outreach related to the field. The Ministry will also assume SERNAM’s efforts to incorporate women into the workforce and into decision-making positions; eradicate violence against women; improve women’s quality of life; and end gender stereotypes learned from family and school and through media.

Services that support women’s access to capital and assets: 

Housed in Chile’s state-owned bank, Crece Mujer was established in 2015 for the purpose of incorporating a gender perspective into loan applications and client communications, with the goal of increasing access to finance among female entrepreneurs. CreceMujer will also...more

BEE Capital is an open competition, sponsored by SERCOTEC, for funds to promote the creation of new businesses or the strengthening of existing ones, by female entrepreneurs. Capital Abeja awards grants between $500,000 and $3,000,...more

An office within Chile’s Ministry of Economy, CORFO supports more than 20,000 Chilean companies per year, providing credit through private financial intermediaries, subsidies to promote technology innovation, certification for international standards, and partnership...more

Recognizing that formalization of enterprises is a critical aspect of accessing formal credit, the government launched Crea tu Empresa en Un Día in 2013. An online portal administered by the Ministry of the Economy, the program makes it easy for new companies to...more

Established in 2010, Start-up Chile is a CORFO-sponsored business accelerator program that invites local and foreign entrepreneurs to launch enterprises in Chile. The program offers economic incentives to all participants, including a one-year work visa to outsiders who...more

Services that support women’s access to markets: 

In 1999, the Chilean government consolidated all contracting activities into a single, online portal for smooth and equitable business contracting between the government and private enterprise. Within five years, the portal had hundreds of thousands of companies...more

Established to support poor and extremely vulnerable people, FOSIS designs and implements programs to provide women with greater security and more opportunities. Its work is focused on attaining greater social protection and economic inclusion of the most vulnerable...more

ProChile is based in the General Directorate of International Economics Affaires of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It promotes exports of Chilean products and services. ProChile has a network of 54 offices worldwide and 15 export centers in Chile that aim to boost the...more

Services that support strengthened capacity and skills for women in business: 

Based in the Sociocultural Department of the President’s Office, PRODEMU works with vulnerable women throughout Chile for the purpose of promoting their empowerment and increasing their leadership skills. The foundation has multiple training and education programs aimed...more

MESP is an initiative aimed at Chile’s poorest adults. Each year since 2006, MESP has offered about 24,000 unemployed or underemployed people assistance gaining skills and capital to generate income through self-employment. MESP provides 60 hours of training in business...more

SERCOTEC promotes and supports the competitiveness of Chile’s micro and small enterprises. Its programs include classes and training opportunities to strengthen the management skills of entrepreneurs. Services also include the development of regional entrepreneurship...more

Among its many services dedicated to strengthening Chile’s workforce, SENCE offers programs to meet the specific needs of women. SENCE helps women entrepreneurs register companies and provides training in finance, customer demand, marketing, and computing. In the...more

Services that support women’s leadership, voice and agency: 

Among SERNAM’s primary goals is the strengthened inclusion of women as political decision-makers, informed voters, and elected officials. SERNAM’s Women, Citizenship and Participation initiative fosters women’s political participation and influence, including through...more

Services that support women and innovation and technology: 

Established in 1967 by the Ministry of Education, CONICYT advises Chile’s President on scientific development. CONICYT supports a comprehensive policy of training, integration, and recruitment of researchers and professionals and supports scientific research and...more