Marie-Pierre Mercier
Country Manager
Autodesk Mexico
/
Expert Contributor

Structure, Committed Leaders Needed to Boost Women's Inclusion

By Marie-Pierre Mercier | Thu, 03/17/2022 - 11:00

Twenty years ago, at the beginning of my professional career, I was almost always the only woman on my work teams or in client meetings. Thinking back to that time, I remember that it was unusual for many of my colleagues, even the leaders, to deal with women in a professional environment. They often hesitated to give feedback or in situations as mundane as making jokes.

According to the National Institute of Geography and Statistics (INEGI), women's economic participation rate increased from 33.5 to 49.1 percent between 2010 and 2020. Even when more and more women have joined the labor market, three out of 10 remain outside.

In addition, it is still uncommon to see women leading companies in industries traditionally dominated by men in Mexico, including the technology, construction, and manufacturing sectors. Also, according to INEGI, of the total employed population aged 25 and over in management positions in the public, private, and social sectors, only 39 percent are women. These figures reflect that inclusion is still not a reality in the country, which is a burden for all industries.

First, I would like to point out that diversity is crucial for business success, as actively seeking different perspectives drives new ideas and ultimately generates more substantial business results.

For diversity to fulfill this mission, it is not enough to seek to add more women to a team; it must go hand in hand with inclusion and equal opportunities for people to grow within the organization.

A company is not capable of achieving these attributes overnight. On the contrary, they require awareness and systematic work but, above all, they need two factors: structure and committed leadership.

By structure, I mean a platform of values that helps all members of an organization discern the behaviors they should encourage and those they should eliminate. That structure also promotes the acceptance of differences among people and teaches them how to get along. Nevertheless, the actual challenge companies face is to ensure that this platform does not just stay in a document but that all its members internalize its values and put them into practice.

At Autodesk, we strive every day to create an environment where every employee, everywhere in the world, is happy to come to work. Our Culture Code has given us the structure to act toward this purpose. However, putting the code into practice has been an exercise in awareness and perseverance. We build and foster a sense of belonging through a mutual commitment to our mission and our clients, while colleagues with shared experiences connect in groups, such as women, LGBTQ+ or Latinxs.

These groups intend to give employees identity and voice while helping them communicate to the rest of the company the challenges its members face and undertake initiatives to address them. Today, I can tell you that the Culture Code has been internalized to such a degree that when people do not agree with these ideas, they themselves choose to leave the company.

The second factor I refer to is committed leadership. For this structure to work, those who lead the organization must be willing to dedicate resources to make diversity, inclusion, and equality a reality.

We must keep in mind that, even if an organization has a solid culture, none is exempt from disparities in its structure; many originated from unconscious biases. To avoid inequalities or lack of access to growth opportunities, it's not enough to implement policies and trust that all company members will follow them. It doesn't work that way.

Leadership must strive to find out where these gaps may be. To do so, first, they need to get to know the people who are part of their team and objectively map their roles, hierarchical levels and salaries. Then, this analysis must transform into a plan to develop people's potential and make salary and role adjustments based on capabilities and skills. This process is not an easy task; it demands much time and resources from the organization.

I'm glad to see that I'm no longer the only woman in the room, contrary to how it was at the beginning of my career. However, there is still much work to be done regarding inclusion and equality. It is the responsibility of companies to close the gap. 

Photo by:   Marie-Pierre Mercier