Fostering inclusion key to improving gender diversity in Mexico

25 October 2017 4 min. read
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Mexican work-places continues to struggle to improve levels of gender equality, according to a new report. Machoism, a lack of workers' rights, and stereotyping continue to hold sway, limiting female pay and the opportunities for women to advance.

In recent years there has been an increasing push to boost workplace diversity. The arguments for increased diversity include a business case, which shows that a more diverse business environment creates economic benefits. One study found improvements among FTSE 350 (UK), S&P 500 (US) and CNX 200 (India) worth up to $655 billion. Tackling issues pertaining to diversity has been found to be relatively difficult, with businesses continuing to meet with internal and external barriers to a more diverse employment environment. While the impetus towards diversity remains relatively robust, the practicalities of bringing about change continue to confound organisations globally.

In a new report from A.T. Kearney, titled ‘Beyond Gender Diversity: Inclusion 2.0’, the consulting firm explores current trends in gender diversity in Mexico, as well as key issues related to improving diversity. One of these issues is improving inclusion, which involves removing: biases; non-physical and physical violence against women; and normative and policy structures that inhibit the inclusion of women in businesses.

Female labour force participation

In terms of female participation in the measured Mexican economy, the country performs well below the OECD average, at 47%, while male participation is relatively high at more than 80%. The level of participation runs well below that of Northern European countries, which is topped by Iceland at more than 80%, followed by Switzerland and Denmark. The OECD average lies at 60%.

The relatively low performance for Mexico is attributed to relatively entrenched social values of 'machoism' suggesting that women should stay at home – an attitude that has seen it perform well below its regional peers such as Chile, at almost 60%, and Colombia at just over 60%.

Mexico lags other OECD countries

Aside from cultural barriers to inclusion in the workplace, the study also notes that few policies exist to provide family and care support for maternity, parental and home care leave. In total, Mexican workers receive around 15 weeks to support family life, up significantly from 1970 but down somewhat since 1990. The OECD average, meanwhile, is around 50 weeks.

Aside from policy barriers and wider social expectations, women also face barriers in the work environment. In academia for instance, research shows that they need to work harder for recognition, while in business, discrimination appears to differ between firm type, with international companies more likely to have a conducive work culture than Mexican businesses. As it stands, men continue to have higher salaries than women, dominate management positions and have a preference to work with other men.

Female inclusion cycle

The study identifies a number of areas in which education, role model development and gender stereotype changes can open up additional opportunities for women in the organisations across Mexico. Alongside creating a more open educational system, which encourages women to participate, career development can also be improved through sponsorship, mentoring, female role models,networking, and confidence building. Structural biases, as well as violence from men and other women, particularly harassment and hostile work environments, also need to be tackled through clear business policies and wider culture.

Toxic masculinity

In the social sphere, ‘machoism’ would need to be tackled, whereby men are expected to work while women are expected to care for the home. This form of machoism is a stereotype affecting men and women, the study notes, with women placing expectations on other women about how they should act. The study found that education at the family level remains key to bringing about social changes in this area.

In terms of market changes, the study found that the public sector has managed to boost female participation rates considerably, particularly in national parliaments where the proportion is the second highest in the OECD. Market conditions focused on the improvement of gender equality in Mexico have largely stemmed from international businesses that introduce their more global policies to the region. Local SMEs, meanwhile, tend to have poor level of policy in place to improve equality, which is further hampered by a lack of national level policy on workers’ rights, which are not protected.