Beatriz Tumoine wanted to be a doctor. She was a gifted student, who at age 16 obtained a place in the medical school of the prestigious Technological Institute of Monterrey, about 350 kilometers from her home in Torreón.
Only 10% of executive positions in Mexico are held by women
But her parents did not allow her to register. "My dad would not even consider it," says Tumoine, now an executive at Cemex, the construction materials group, and one of Mexico's most successful multinationals.
"I thought that my grandfather, a doctor, would support me. But he said it was a very demanding race and that for a woman, maybe it was not the best option. " Tumoine was devastated, but in the province of Mexico, in the 1980s, "they did not know anything different," she says.
Since those days, Mexico has been transformed from a closed economy to a manufacturing power with more free trade agreements than any other country. But prospects for a career for women seem to be suspended over time.
Changing things is not only a matter of social justice but an economic imperative for the country.
A new report that examines the situation of women in the workplace in Mexico, the consultancy McKinsey, recognizes that reducing the gender gap in the second largest economy in Latin America has the potential to boost 70% of the Product Gross Domestic Product (GDP) or around 800,000 million dollars.
Although he says it is easier to evaluate the size of the opportunity than to say when it will be achieved. Why is it so big? Because only 4 out of 10 women have a job outside the home. Mexico has the second lowest participation of women in the OECD labor force, behind Turkey, according to the report.
Many of these women only work part-time in low productivity sectors. "It's like driving Mexico with half a motor," says Eduardo Bolio, one of the authors of the study, which surveyed 50 companies that employ more than one million people, with sales representing 40% of Mexico's GDP.
In the corporate sector of Mexico, women occupy almost 40% of entry-level positions, but that number decreases to 10% for executive positions. However, McKinsey points out that studies show that more women managers can translate into a 55% higher profit margin and a 47% higher return on capital, based on the experiences of 300 companies in 10 countries between 2007 and 2009.
The administration of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, which placed women in high-level positions in its government cabinet with gender parity, committed to making Mexico a more prosperous and inclusive country in its mandate.
One of its social programs, "Jóvenes Construyendo el Futuro", which offers one-year apprenticeships to young people between the ages of 18 and 29 who do not study or work, unexpectedly took advantage of the challenge of getting women into the labor sector.
"We speak with many experts," says Luisa María Alcalde, the Labor Secretary, who is 31 years old. "They told us that women would not register because they are tied to the care work. To our surprise, of the 1.1 million young people who have registered so far, 60% or more are women. " "This shows that there are many women who want to enter the labor market and find it very difficult to do so," adds Mayor.
Paula Santilli, president of PepsiCo Mexico Foods, says she is delighted that men and women have similar ambitions to become executives, but that she "wants to mourn" because of the 12-point gap between her expectations to achieve it. In fact, Mexican men are 88 times more likely to reach high-level executive positions than women, who only earn three-quarters of what their male peers perceive.
Tumoine, Cemex's director of global human resources planning and development, who says that she "still did not have a career plan" when she graduated from business studies, had to develop her own strategies.
"I've tried to be more assertive at work, but I never thought I'd have to do it at school or things that are not structured to support working mothers," she says. Now she tells the teachers that it is "disrespectful" to hold meetings half of her working day, and that "we must work together to motivate more women (to have professional careers)."
The Mexican Congress did this through a gender parity law, but the president of the Chamber of Deputies, Porfirio Muñoz Ledo, aged 85, was criticized this month for telling a senator, who spent her allotted time Talking while holding her two-month-old baby in her arms: "There is a limit to mother-child tolerance."
So, can Mexican women have it all, juggle high-flying careers and motherhood, like New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who had a baby last year?
Apparently, many think not: in a study cited in the report, it was found that 64% of female executives had no children and 49% were single. But the Secretary of Labor, Luisa María Alcalde, says that in the government there are many women of childbearing age. "It's going to happen, maybe even for me," he says. "But I'm not promising anything."