Women in Mexico’s Workforce


Here is a link to my latest article on AQBlog, titled “Women in Mexico’s Workforce“, published on November 1st, 2013. Please feel free to visit and comment. Here is a verbatim copy of it in case you prefer to read it on my personal blog, though I recommend actually going to the site because of additional content, other blogger’s articles, etc.

“Women are not doing well because they want to do it all. They want to study, go out and get a job and be housewives as well. Well, that is really difficult to achieve.”

These were recent and controversial words spoken by Ricardo Salinas Pliego, president of Grupo Salinas and owner of TV Azteca, one of the two television media conglomerates in the country. Salinas made the remarks during the Mexico Cumbre de Negocios (Mexico Business Summit) on October 20-22.

Salinas went on to say that women should receive a salary from their husbands “so that their work at home as caretakers […] is monetized and better valued.”

Unfortunately, his ignorant point of view on gender equality is not as unusual in Mexico as some may think. Even in this day and age, many talented Mexican women face such myopic views as an obstacle to their professional development.

Given the growing number of women with advanced graduate degrees in Mexico—currently 50.4 percent, according to a recent study by the Asociación Nacional de Universidades e Instituciones de Educación Superior (National Association of Universities and Higher Educational Institutions—ANUIES)—forward-thinking companies have begun to understand the need to tap into a talent pool they didn’t used to, given prejudices in hiring and professional development processes.

These companies are breaking ground by incorporating gender quotas into their talent attraction and training processes. Some have also begun to explore work-from-home and flextime schemes to help working mothers split their time between professional and personal responsibilities. But are these strategies fair and effective in tackling the real problems preventing Mexican women from attaining greater professional opportunities, or are they simply temporary solutions?

The effectiveness of gender quotas is highly debatable. Those who favor them say that they allow for greater participation of women in the workforce and that they are an essential starting point for changing deep-seated behaviors in business organizations.

Those opposed to gender quotas say that they don’t promote real equality, risk attracting inferior talent and are condescending toward women.

My problem with inclusion quotas is that they don’t tackle the real issue at hand, which is the need to change the mindset of industry leaders who hold similar views to those of Mr. Salinas Pliego.

Faced with systemic prejudices and severe gender disparities, 30 percent of working women in Mexico feel that they are stuck in their profession and do not have opportunities to grow, get a salary raise or receive appropriate recognition from their employers and peers.

The message is clear. You can try to reach out and attract female talent, but you’re setting yourself up for failure if that talent is brought into a hostile environment and diseased bymachismo that can’t be cured by a quota. In fact, having a quota system could actually exacerbate discrimination by men who think quotas give women an unfair advantage.

Conscious businesses that truly want to make a positive change need to do more than just debate quotas or consider special concessions for working mothers  that would enable  them to thrive professionally. Rather, businesses should promote a cultural change that values talent regardless of gender, and that helps employees modify the often unequal gender roles at home.

Businesses must also understand that their decision to promote gender equality should not be viewed as a public relations campaign. It simply makes sense for businesses to attract, grow and retain the best talent available to them, regardless of gender. Business leaders should look to the numerous studies that have proven that a gender-diverse workforce provides better business results.

As the European Project on Equal Pay posits, there is extensive research showing “a strong correlation between a strong record of promoting women into the executive suite and high profitability.” Catalyst, a U.S. nonprofit, found in its 2011 research that there is a 26 percent difference in return on invested capital (ROIC) between companies in the top-quartile of women board representation and those in the bottom quartile (with zero women directors). According to a recent study by McKinsey & Company, the profitability of Fortune 500 companies with three or more women executives is 5 percent higher than that of their competitors.

Rather than simply implementing quotas, businesses must ensure that their male executives learn these important facts. Ongoing gender inclusion efforts, such as flexible work schemes, should not be discarded or undervalued. But if companies in Mexico are serious about effectively capitalizing on women’s professional potential, they should start with their own employees.

What do you mean Flash Gordon approaching?


Here’s a blast from the past. All I can say is we’ve come a long way in terms of movie production, animation and special effects since 1980.

I remember watching this film as a kid and thinking it kicked ass. Now it looks like a bad Halloween party with that a weird blonde dude with no shirt crashed.

In Mexico, Corporations May Be Better Poised to Address Social Concerns


Here’s a link to my AQBlog article “In Mexico, Corporations May Be Better Poised to Address Social Concerns”, published on August 18th, 2010.

Here’s a copy of it:


According to Keynesian economics, the state (and specifically government) was created to step in, regulate and control market abuses. The idea was that laissez faire gave profit-seekers the power to sidetrack certain aspects of organized societal living, such as fair distribution of wealth, worker conditions and education so government involvement was necessary to tame the private enterprise beast.

Ironically enough, today in Mexico (and one could argue the world), large companies are making it part of their business strategy to get involved and address those problems in which government has faltered. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is becoming much more efficient than state action and the past 15 to 20 years have seen visionary companies embrace this concept, creating a partnership and bonds with communities that politicians have never been able to nurture.

Large companies like Banamex, Bimbo, CEMEX, Cervecería Cuauhtémoc Moctezuma, FEMSA, and even Telmex have been setting up ambitious projects and foundations to promote development, alleviate poverty and improve health and welfare. They are also finding a business logic to self-regulation and obtaining efficiencies in their processes that deal with carbon emissions and use of natural resources.

Why does CSR have a better chance of succeeding than government actions? Three key concepts: ongoing concern, a drive for profitability and accountability.

We learn about ongoing concern in accounting classes. It is the idea that for accounting purposes, one should believe that the entity will continue to exist perpetually. Though companies may come and go (after all even business mammoths go bankrupt, think Mexicana de Aviación) they are far more permanent than government administrations at a state and federal level. The fact that Mexico does not have re-elections (or political memory, see my previous post) provides no incentive for specific government administrations to address problems or worry about their reputations in the long run.

If a company is efficient in its use of natural resources, its costs go down. If they are able to project themselves as a company that honestly (and this is key) wants to partner with civil society and cares, their products become more attractive and may even provide better margin. If managed correctly, CSR provides profitability advantages to companies willing to invest themselves in intelligent business strategies. Government administrations on the other hand, seldom seek profitability or even sustainability. Government officials try to find personal profit and many a time they do it in very creative (corrupt) ways, but that’s a topic for another article altogether.

The third key aspect is accountability. Today’s consumers are becoming more and more selective with their brand preferences and in many product categories. Price is no longer the only variable. Even after massive PR campaigns we still remember the child labor stories of a certain shoe company. The Gulf of Mexico crisis is not yet contained and BP is already thinking of changing its corporate branding to try to soften the PR blow. Consumers are making companies accountable for their actions and hitting them where it hurts the most if they do not deliver.

Even in terms of talent attraction, companies must keep in mind that tomorrow’s (even today’s) white collar labor market will choose to approach companies based on their reputation as a respectable entity. It’s easy enough to understand why a company is more concerned in pushing forward the social agenda than government. When was the last time that a Mexican governor or president was effectively held accountable for his shortcomings?

So I say give my taxes to the business mammoths. They’re more likely to put them to better use.

*Arjan Shahani is a contributing blogger to AmericasQuarterly.org. He lives in Monterrey, Mexico, and is an MBA graduate from Thunderbird University and Tecnológico de Monterrey and a member of the International Advisory Board of Global Majority—an international non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of non-violent conflict resolution.