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Analysis

The Voices of Female Leadership

By Miriam Bello | Mon, 03/08/2021 - 17:42

Female leadership is encouraged globally. Regardless of the sector, female participation in decision-making boards has become a priority for almost all countries in the world. However, it is still important to highlight why being inclusive at high corporate levels will lead society to equal development opportunities. "When we have diverse leadership, we make better decisions,” said Katrin Jakobsdottir, Iceland’s Prime Minister during 2020’s Women Leader for Generation Equality Forum.

Hosted by UN Women, the forum recognized that female leader voices are essential to bringing attention to the issue of diversity. Only by understanding diversity will the world create solutions for all fronts. In healthcare for instance, diversity implies different disease burdens, health access, health rights, nutrition levels or lifestyles. To change societies’ realities, first we need to recognize the need for equal leadership. A report by NCBI states that women in leadership positions in government organizations implement different policies than men and that these policies are more supportive of women and children. In healthcare, women and children are two of the groups suffering the most from inequality, so female inclusion in decision-making is being largely encouraged.

Making Women’s Voices Heard

Mexico is represented by women at many forums, which also allows women to be seen as successful at workspaces or as entrepreneurs. MBN has gathered diverse leadership opinions from decision markers in the industry to understand their journey and how they perceive gender issues in high-level positions.

The medical devices industry is one of Mexico’s economic pillars, being responsible for much industrial work in the country’s northern border. The benefits of this industry range from the shortening of hospital stays to the improvement of health conditions. Medical devices are also crucial in preventive, diagnostic, therapeutic and rehabilitation activities. For Ana Riquelme, Executive Director of the Mexican Association of Innovative Medical Device Industries (AMID), the environment in this sector has changed drastically. “When I entered a meeting, I would be the only women in the room. But the medical devices sector is highly innovative and dynamic and this has helped open the doors to women.” She said that from women represent 60 percent of the membership in AMID’s five committees. “Our leadership in the industry is still limited but I am happy to see that each day there are more women heading important companies and being properly recognized.”

Clinical research is another relevant area for healthcare in Mexico. This sector has been considered of great potential for the country due to the country’s disease burden. Clinical research in Mexico means greater and quicker access to innovative health therapies but this is not without inequality, said Paula Johnson, Chief of Women’s Health at Brigham and Women’s Hospital at Harvard University, during a TEDtalk. Women face disparity in the first stages of clinical research, which is concerning because, biologically, every cell in the human body has a sex, which means that men and women are different right down to the cellular level, therefore, there are often significant differences in the ways men and women respond to disease or treatment. “It is very important in research trials to differentiate between female and male subjects so we can figure out the differences,” said Johnson.

“Being president of ACROM was a very important step for me as I am the first woman to lead the association,” said Fabiola Encinas, President of Mexico’s CRO alliance ACROM, to MBN. Encinas recognized that her leadership comes at a very critical time for women empowerment. “In the area of clinical research, women are the majority and it is very gratifying to see that we have the opportunity to develop within this sector.”

“Tenacity and my willingness to truly support my industry is demonstrative of my passion for the growth of clinical research. My vast experience in the sector has given me the knowledge I need to support my sector and become a true ally for patients, too,” said Encinas.

Female Participation in Innovation, Entrepreneurship

During the pandemic, one company has resonated and that is Pfizer. In Mexico, this company is led by Constanza Losada, President and Country Manger. Losada has shared with MBN how her journey in the company has been characterized by inclusion and equity. “Every woman, regardless of the position and area to which she belongs, can inspire more women, whether defending their achievements, applying to positions that carry more responsibilities, proposing new ways of working or questioning the status quo,” she said. Losada also stressed that companies are key to making this happen and to genuinely recognize the abilities and talent of women.

According to Science Direct, gender inequality is a persistent feature in entrepreneurship and this might the flame that fuels the will to thrive with a project, said Francisca Vargas, Founder of Womedic, a clinic that focuses on women’s health. Vargas explained that her road as a women entrepreneur in health has been difficult. “Prior to opening my own clinic, I worked many years in the Ministry of Health and I got fired because I got pregnant.” After this, Vargas decided to follow her dream of delivering an integral approach to healthcare. “I worked in the private sector in a company that designs and builds clinics. I was the only woman and I basically ended up subordinated and doing a job that was below that for which I was hired.” She explains that stigma and gender roles were also part of her journey as a leader. “I would often be asked by both men and women if they could ‘talk to my boss’ when I was the boss. I would not be taken seriously because I was a woman who offered a casual style of leadership.” Vargas said that due to her experience, she tried to empower other women with her clinic. “Moreover, I encourage my collaborators to follow their dreams and grow. I have been there, too, and as a woman, I know what it is like.”

Advances Toward Inclusion

Despite women growing companies’ earnings by a 20 percent, in Mexico, just about 16 percent of the nation’s leaders are women. Despite the gender quotas the government has set, female leadership is still not a standard. According to Voces Feministas (Feminist Voices), for every 17 men there are two women working in scientific research institutes, while in social sciences and humanities there are two women for every nine men. Voces Feministas’ report on women inclusion accused Mexican institutions of having non-written rules that simply exclude women from directive positions. However, a report by ANMM says that the private sector has even less female participation than the public sector. According to ANMM, female leadership in the public sector is around 39 percent and in the private sector is around 29 percent. In the private health (medicine, specifically) sector, ANMM states that just 16 percent of the leaders are women. The body also exposed that female entrepreneurship makes up about 20 percent of national environment.

A KPMG report on management positions in Mexico revealed that women in Mexico generally occupy secondary positions, as 4 percent of the surveyed companies of the report are women against 11 percent of male presidents. Meanwhile, women represent only 4 percent of deputy directors against 52 percent male executives.

How to Close This Gender Gap?

Improving labor conditions is the first step. According to a World Bank report on Inequality in Labor Rights, Mexico’s overall rating was of 88.8. In general, the country has improved in this area, as in 2020 it was in 65th position while this year it ranked 45th, mostly due to an improvement in the country’s labor rights.

Courtney McColgan, CEO and Founder of Runa HR, shared with MBN five recommendations to foster inclusion in the workplace:

1. Annual salary audits. Only 15.6 percent of women said their companies conduct annual salary audits to check for gender bias.

2. Implementing quantitative performance reviews. 49.1 percent of women said their companies have clear, quantitative processes around promotions, salary increases and bonuses.

3. Adopting gender-blind recruiting practices. 59.2 percent of women said their companies use a gender-blind recruitment process. This type of process has specific targets regarding women hires.

4. Adoption of a flexible work policy. Thanks to COVID-19, 73.3 percent of women said their company has adopted a flexible work policy and the majority of those interviewed believe the new changes are here to stay.

5. Base salaries based on the position and not previous wages. Women on average are paid 18.8 percent less than men in Mexico.

Miriam Bello Miriam Bello Journalist and Industry Analyst