A.T. Kearney identifes the economic benefits of gender equality in Mexican economy

25 October 2017 Consultancy.lat 5 min. read

According to a new report from consulting firm A.T. Kearney, entitled ‘Beyond Gender Diversity: Inclusion 2.0’, the prevalence of a ‘macho' culture is hindering Mexican workplace productivity.

Recently, there has been an international push to increase gender diversity in the workplace. The creation of a more inclusive work environment is not only socially advantageous, but also economically beneficial, according to an A.T. Kearney report. By tackling diversity issues, businesses can increase productivity and potentially save billions. The financial cost of having a lack of women in managerial positions across three markets — the U.S. the U.K. and India — runs $655 billion in forgone business opportunities, according to a separate business case study. This knowledge has created a desire for both governments and the private sector to act; however, the practicalities of doing so are impeding the transition.

Women in Mexico are affected by low-level workers' rights, gender stereotyping, and a lack of opportunities to climb the ladder. In comparison to other OECD countries, Mexico is at the bottom end of gender inclusivity in the workplace. In terms of female participation in the labour force, only 47% of women who are of working age are contributing to the Mexican economy. The OECD average sits at 60%, and is led by Northern European countries. 

Female labour force participation

In a regional context, Mexican gender inequality is marginally higher than its Latin peers. Female participation in the workplace lags behind Chile, Colombia, Peru, and Brazil; and while 17 of 25 Latin American and Caribbean countries improved in the OECD’s 2016 Global Gender Gap Index, Mexico regressed. The report identifies that for the Mexican women who do work, there is low pay and little security or social protection due to the informal nature of jobs that women can acquire. As a result, Mexico remains one of the lowest preforming countries in terms of female professionals in the region. According to the study, by tackling the issue of the gender gap in the workforce, Mexico can increase growth with a bottom line of 0.2 percentage of per capita GDP by 2040.

A.T. Kearney's report indicates that in order to improve diversity and inclusion, socially-ingrained biases and normative policy structures that hold women back must be dismantled. In order for Mexican women to gain greater gender equality, it is important that national companies establish policies that both protect and create opportunities for women in the workplace. The task to foster inclusion must be shared between government and private companies, changing both policy and cultural barriers. 

In the instance of both maternity and paternity leave, Mexico falls far below the OECD average. Less than half of all Mexican women are legally entitled to paid leave, and on average, the country has regressed since the 1990s on the provision of parental leave. This is shaped both by a lack of a public framework to secure women’s rights in the workplace, and by private company culture. The report suggests that policy barriers like this feed into wider social expectations, acting as barriers for female advancement in the workplace.

Mexico lags other OECD countries

Despite government attempts to boost the number of females in the workplace and decrease issues such as violence against women and sexual harassment, gender inequality remains entrenched in the culture of many firms. While gender inequality is a problem throughout the entire country, international companies are more diverse than private national companies, reflecting a global push towards gender equality. Currently, men continue to have higher salaries than their female counterparts, dominate managerial positions, and prefer to work with other men.

Within the public sector, the Mexican government has recognized the weight of the issue, enacting a number of successful gender-related measures and policies. Additionally, the Mexican government has an unusually high number of women parliamentarians in comparison to the OECD average.

Mexican ‘Machismo’

Masculinity or ‘machismo’ is seen to be one of the driving forces of Mexico's particularly wide gender gap, according to the study. ‘Machismo’ is a cultural stereotype that can be described as a strong masculine pride, and often includes the belief that women belong at the family home and not in the workplace. This culture is perpetuated by both men and women who reinforce these stereotypes and place expectations on how women should act. 

Measures to tackle the issue are multifaceted and need to come from both public and private sectors, as well as through social change. The study suggests multiple areas in which change can address the gender gap in Mexico. Through the means of education and role model development, the country can address some of the fundamentals of the issue. To challenge ‘machismo’, it is first important to bolster education, from a family level to inclusion in universities. At a business level, an open educational system will create a greater talent pool. This level of encouragement to participate should be replicated in the workplace through sponsorship programs and leadership mentoring. 

By creating an atmosphere where women can get to positions of power, the culture of machismo and the correlation between women and home life will begin to break down. This in turn will raise confidence that women have an equal opportunity to succeed professionally and will encourage other women. Efforts must come from multinational firms introducing more equitable corporate cultures, as well as from the public sector enshrining equitable worker's rights through policy. At the same time, local SMEs must also incorporate policies to encourage women to participate in the workplace. According to the consulting firm, if Mexico is successful in increasing diversity, the economic benefits will be widespread.