Although economic opportunity for women in Mexico has long lagged behind that of the economy’s men, Mexico has seen considerable progress in recent years. Today, men and women share similar educational opportunities and they graduate from secondary school and university at approximately the same rates. More...
Although economic opportunity for women in Mexico has long lagged behind that of the economy’s men, Mexico has seen considerable progress in recent years. Today, men and women share similar educational opportunities and they graduate from secondary school and university at approximately the same rates. The number of women working outside the home has more than doubled since 1985, according to a 2014 economy overview by the Catalyst organization, and the number of dual-income households is also increasing. Since 2006, Mexico has improved its scores and rankings in the annual World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report, which compares conditions faced by men and women in over 140 economies. The narrowing of gender gaps in the economy is significantly attributable to an increase in female professional and technical workers, as well as increased representation of women in Congress.
Still, as of 2014, just 45 percent of women over age 15 were in the workforce, compared with 80 percent of men. Men’s salaries remain significantly higher than those earned by women. As in many economies, traditional gender roles and cultural norms pose challenges to women’s economic participation in Mexico. Women are expected to be the primary caregivers as well as maintain the household. These norms are reinforced by a general lack of national initiatives that focus on diminishing household responsibilities for women—such as through increased access to childcare—or on encouraging men to share these responsibilities. In 2012, the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor Women’s Report said that childcare services are especially limited in Mexico, thus making it difficult for two parents to work outside the home.
Family is considered to be the center of life in Mexico. This often poses a challenge for women who want to balance work and family. Women often face pressure to abandon their education or professional development in favor of staying at home to raise their children full-time. Furthermore, husbands of working women often are harassed by other men for “allow[ing] their wives to work”. In addition to looking after children, women assume the vast majority of housework and elder care. Seventy-percent of senior business leaders interviewed for the 2014 Catalyst report agreed that “work-life balance is a key challenge for women professionals in Mexico.” Furthermore, leadership positions in the workplace typically require “male hours” (horarios masculinos)—that is, long hours in the office that are not necessarily productive, but demonstrate one’s dedication to the job. At the same time, the value associated with working women is diminished when they must leave the office on time and return to their responsibilities at home. Women occupy just over 15 percent of top management positions, according to a 2010 World Bank Enterprise Survey of nearly 1,500 formally established businesses.
Mexican women who aspire to start their own enterprises face additional challenges. Just one out of four firms in Mexico has female participation in ownership, according to the World Bank. Also, women’s enterprises tend to be smaller and grow more slowly than those founded by men. One major challenge that women face in starting and growing their businesses is access to loans: women are often viewed as unreliable borrowers. In 2012, the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor Women’s Report found that, “In Mexico, financial institutions do not typically give credit to women on their own but require husbands or fathers to cosign loan applications.”
On the other hand, in 2014, the Gender Global Entrepreneurship Development Index (Gender GEDI) ranked Mexico 10th out of 30 world economies it reviewed for conditions that foster high-potential female entrepreneurship development. The survey looked at such factors as access to resources, gender-influenced public policies, the effect monopolies have on new businesses trying to enter the market, and opportunities in technology. Moreover, although just 6 percent of corporate board seats in Mexico are held by women, this figure is in fact the second highest in Latin America, according to a 2013 report by Paul Hastings.
Notwithstanding the obstacles to women, it is evident that Mexico offers some best practices for the development of women entrepreneurs. The economy offers a range of local business networks and associations, as well as a compelling set of private-sector initiatives and expansive and innovative government programs.
Though there are ample business networks across Mexico’s private sector, these networks generally exclude women. A study by Value for Women, Banorte Foundation and the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs found that the networks don’t always explicitly exclude women; they simply do not take into account women’s schedules and needs, therefore eliminating their ability to participate. The study found that “the fact that women’s time is still largely dedicated to family” outside of standard working hours leaves them with little time for networking.” Furthermore, many networking events take place over “happy hour.” Women are excluded from these not because they are not allowed to attend, but simply because they are expected to be elsewhere at that time—at home, taking care of household duties and their children.
Despite cultural challenges, many women have found a way to participate in business networks. Some networks, such as Pro Mujer, are established internationally, while others started in one province of Mexico and rapidly grew to include women of several provinces. In any case, it seems as though the networks take into account the needs of women, assisting with specific business skills they need to develop and even building on “housework” skills to help them run their businesses.
Networks that support women’s access to capital and assets:
Networks that support women’s access to markets:
Networks that support strengthened capacity and skills for women in business:
Networks that support women’s leadership, voice and agency:
Networks that support women and innovation and technology:
There is a large emphasis in Mexico on private-sector initiatives that underscore the importance of entrepreneurship. Many programs are geared toward funding women who want to start their own businesses. A major theme of the existing private sector initiatives is competition—encouraging women to compete and funding only the best and most innovative ideas. With such an emphasis on financing, it seems that banks could play a larger role in this space. Because the paperwork requirements make it difficult for women to obtain loans through government programs, banks can serve as an alternative.
A study done by Value for Women, Banorte Foundation and the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs suggests that banks should increase the credit and funding options for women-owned businesses and female entrepreneurs. Additionally, women face challenges in opening their own credit cards, which limit them financially. The Value for Women study suggests that banks could “develop a more accessible credit card, but tailored to WSGBs [women-led small and growing businesses], and market this as an option for certain phases of business growth.” By expanding financing options for women, banks could assist more women in starting and running their businesses.
Initiatives that support women’s access to capital and assets:
Initiatives that support women’s access to markets:
Initiatives that support strengthened capacity and skills for women in business:
Initiatives that support women’s leadership, voice and agency:
Initiatives that support women and innovation and technology:
Mexico’s government has shown commitment to women across several different agencies. The Ministry of Economy, National Council for Science and Technology, and the National Institute for Women have programs dedicated to women in business. The National Institute for Women (INMUJERES) is the main government agency working to end discrimination against women, allow women to fully exercise their rights, institutionalize gender across government agencies, and provide women with equal opportunities and participation in politics, culture, and the economy. INMUJERES promotes equal opportunity throughout all government agencies, affecting all facets of society.
Even though government-provided services for women have grown, some services are not fully accessible. Women are not fully aware of the existing programs and services. A study done by Value for Women, Banorte Foundation and the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs found that women entrepreneurs do not view the government as a main source of services or funding. Only 14 percent of participants were aware of or availed themselves of funding opportunities through the Ministry of Economy. Additionally, respondents said that many loan programs discount women and the application process is overly complex, discouraging all applicants. All entrepreneurs, including women, could more easily take advantage of government-provided services if the programs were to execute awareness and communication strategies and campaigns as well as simplify the application processes.