A Long Way to Go on Gender Equality in MexicoBy Lissy Giacoman | Mon, 03/28/2022 - 17:00
At the end of our daily standup last Tuesday – the morning of International Women’s Day – Laura, one of our more junior members, said she wanted to share a quick story:
One of her uncles had asked about her work during their family gathering the previous Sunday. Her uncle went on to ask about her boss and, more specifically, asked for his name. Laura quickly jumped in to correct him – “It’s her name, and there’s actually three of them. Three hers.”
Going beyond “casual” assumptions surrounding women in business or leadership positions, I feel very fortunate every day because I know Vinco is an outlier when compared to the gender inequality that exists in Mexico’s labor force. The following are just a few of the alarming facts that reflect the situation of women in Mexico.
In Mexico, fewer than half of working-age women15 years and older participate in the labor force, ranking as the second-lowest among OECD countries. The percentage is also much lower than 82 percent for working men and 67 percent for working women in other OECD countries.
Taking a closer look, almost 60 percent of women who do work have informal jobs with little social security, which reduces their financial safety, affects productivity and leads to greater poverty. One of the main drivers behind a higher informality for women is the excessive burden of unpaid work, which makes it harder for them to find and keep good job opportunities. On average, Mexican women spend 50 hours a week on household chores, such as cleaning, cooking, and taking care of others –– 2.5 times more hours than men.
Even when women find good job opportunities, there’s a significant gender wage gap. Women in Mexico earn 25.3 percent less than men. According to studies, this percentage increased during the pandemic, as women were the first to take on even more domestic responsibilities – and therefore unpaid work – as a result of confinement and taking care of others. As for wages, four out of 10 female workers earn less than $4,250 MXN (around US$200) per month. What’s concerning is that with that monthly salary, women can barely afford the basic food basket for their families.
Not only do women struggle more to find good job opportunities and fair wages but the path to leadership is also packed with obstacles. In Mexico, women occupy just 7.5 percent of all Board of Director seats at the largest companies in Mexico, way below the average of 20 percent among OECD countries. With low female representation at the highest ranks of companies, women have limited power to make strategic decisions for the company but also to vouch for gender equality.
All of this is on top of what’s known as Mexico’s more unbearable epidemic: femicides. In 2021, on average, more than 10 women were killed each day. Whether it’s at work, at home, or even just at the park, violence against women is at an all-time high –– at least six out of 10 women have experienced violence at some point in their lives.
When I decided to launch Vinco, I could envision the adrenaline rush I would feel from starting a new business. More importantly, I could imagine the organic motivation I would obtain from seeing firsthand the impact on student lives. What I hadn’t anticipated, though, was how a female founding team would attract so much female talent (a snowball effect of sorts), and how when working with educational institutions and HR teams, most of my meetings would be with other female leaders. I wasn’t aware of the consequential inspiration I would get, day after day, from seeing so many women come together to incite real change within their organizations.
We have a long way to go in Mexico, in terms of gender equality. But I can hear a rumbling in the distance: I see more and more women and men simply having more conversations about women in the workforce. It’s a big step and one that will reap rewards. In fact, studies have shown that if more Mexican women were to step into formal jobs, the country’s GDP would grow 15 percent by 2030. On a smaller scale, seeing women succeed can inspire others to take the plunge into entrepreneurship. After all, it’s easier to navigate a difficult path if someone else has taken the time to put up road signs.