Fernando Cruz
Swiss-Mexican Chamber of Commerce and Industry
Expert Contributor

Swiss Mentorship Program for Young Female Professionals

By Fernando Cruz | Tue, 09/15/2020 - 15:06

“Men are promoted based on potential, while women are promoted based on past accomplishments”, as Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg proclaimed in 2011. The same notion is reflected in the much-debated metaphor of the ‘glass ceiling’, which has become a widespread sociological term to describe the ongoing ‘hard, yet hardly visible’ boundaries for women to access the highest positions of decision-making. In 2020, even though plenty of women are being hired for middle-management vacancies and de jure inequalities have been largely abolished, de facto it is still much more difficult to access the top-management positions. Along these lines, issues that prevail, according to a UN Women report from 2019 on the situation in Mexico, are the structural salary inequality (averagely 15,6% difference), unpaid labor at home, lack of social security in the informal sector, misogynism at the workspace, and so forth.

Consequently, the Swiss-Mexican Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SwissCham) has been putting effort in promoting gender equality and women's empowerment in Mexico as a key pillar of its different initiatives since its founding in 2016. For instance, it has organized Swiss Forum on Women Leaders on an annual basis, as well as several webinars on inclusion of women and LGBTQ+ at the workplace with the participation of important voices in matters of diversity. In addition, ten affiliated companies to the SwissCham have signed the Women's Empowerment Principles (WEPs), namely Adecco Group, Bühler, Ferring, Holcim, Nestlé, Novartis, Roche, Schindler, Swiss Re and Zurich. By means of this signature, the mentioned corporations have constituted their commitment to foster the empowerment of women in the highest leadership positions in Mexico or at the regional, and eventually the global level. 

What measures are hence taken to combat these issues? At the non-profit institutional level, UN Women and the Global Compact Network Mexico have jointly introduced the initiative of the WEPs, which aims at promoting the 5th Sustainable Development Goal for more gender equality in the corporate sphere: “The private sector is a key associate in the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women”, according to a statement of the alliance. Its main objective is to recognize and importance of the formal private sector, as a crucial societal force in enabling institutional and structural gender equality. 

Coming to the crux of the matter, a key-strategy in implementing the aforementioned objectives is through building an intergenerational bridge by providing mentorship from high executives to young women aspiring to climb up the corporate ladder. To provide such a platform, the SwissCham has established a mentoring program for young female leaders for its member companies, starting at the end of September 2020. Amongst other benefits, this program offers the transmission of expert-knowledge and soft skills between the parties. It provides the young professionals with advice on professional development and gives them insights into the balance between personal life and career.

The mentees are expected to be the active component of the constellation, they need to deliberately contact their assigned mentor, come up with topics of interest, aspects they want to improve on and goals that they want to achieve from the mentoring relation, as well as schedule the meetings. In return, the mentors should serve as facilitators of development, initiators of opportunities and providers of feedback for their younger counterparts.

To get the program started, the SwissCham will hold its very first virtual Kick-Off event on the 30th of September 2020 at 10AM (MX) with top-notch keynote speakers Belén Sanz, UN Women Mexico Representative. With the attendance of the high-quality mentors, as well as the ambitious mentees, this event is ensured to be an exciting melting-pot of leaders from different companies and mark the starting point for the upcoming nine-month mentoring relations, ending at next-year’s Swiss Forum for Women Leaders in Mexico, in the framework of the 75th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Switzerland and Mexico. 

As for costs, this first version of the mentoring program is offered for free to the employees, as well as executives of affiliated Swiss companies, who can apply without charges to the initiative. This has been possible thanks to the platinum sponsorship of Adecco and Schindler, Gold by Nestlé and Novartis, and silver of Swiss Re and UBS, which already brought the Second Swiss Forum of Women Leaders to life. 

Through the establishment of the program “Mujeres Líderes”, the SwissCham is hoping to open up a platform of promoting equality for its affiliated companies in Mexico, and ultimately to contribute to a transformation of the glass ceiling that still spans across the private sector. The Chamber is also working on more female representation internally: gender balance has been achieved with 50% of Committee Presidents currently being women and increasing significantly female presence at the Board of Directors. Hopefully, these compromises of the private sector will shape conditions that in the future said phenomenon can become more of a ‘glass floor’, connecting all genders and generations for a more inclusive and hence sustainable future of business. 

Photo by:   Fernando Cruz