Increasing female participation in the workforce would increase Mexico’s GDP by 70%.
The glass ceiling is a barrier that creates various obstacles which are so subtle they end up rendering women’s professional development and growth invisible.
This practice is known as a glass ceiling because, although women have the knowledge and skills to assume management positions in various business sectors or, for example, to be university rectors, it is men who almost always assume these positions.
When Sandra Vilchis became a floor manager in the production area of a television station, she did not imagine the difficulties she would face as a woman.
“I ran into men’s reluctance. It was normal for them to be pushed around and when I arrived with another, more respectful attitude, they saw me as being weak for not speaking badly or rudely to them and they assumed they could ignore me. At that time, I didn’t know anything about the glass ceiling, but I experienced it,” she said in an interview with Tec Review.
When she studied for a master’s degree in Women’s Studies at the Xochimilco Unit of the Metropolitan Autonomous University, she learned of this term, attributed to American management consultant Marilyn Loden, who in 1978 gave the lecture “Mirror, mirror on the wall” in which she mentioned for the first time the term ‘glass ceiling’ to refer to the impossibility for women to advance professionally.
“We have an organizational culture riddled with stereotypes and gender roles. In the public sphere, we can point to very few women who are qualified to reach a certain position. Just because we see three or five, doesn’t mean that there is already parity. In general, we’re talking about a masculine world governed by unwritten codes and rules,” Vilchis explained.
The barriers that impede the progress and mobility of women are based on the idea that women do not fit in a company because they are more passive and emotional, while men are aggressive, determined, and objective.
Behind these stereotypes lies the patriarchal system that permeates societies, and Mexico is no exception.
In 2018, the publication of the first report “One Aspiration, Two Realities: MX Women Matter”, carried out by the consulting firm McKinsey & Company, showed that companies lose opportunities to increase their profits by maintaining a glass ceiling.
To document this, the study surveyed 8,600 employees from 50 iconic companies in Mexico.
The results showed that increasing female participation in the workforce of these companies would add up to 0.8 trillion dollars to Mexico’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), an additional 70%.
One of its main findings was that women occupy a mere 10% of executive committee positions in these companies —which employ more than a million people and generate an equivalent of 40% of the national GDP in sales—, only 8% becoming CEOs compared to 92% men.
It has been observed that companies with women at high levels of their organization have 55% greater profit margins. However, less than a third of employees are aware of the relationship between diversity and business performance.
The reality is that women constitute 37% of entry-level personnel in the 50 companies that participated. Although 9 out of 10 male and female participants responded that they would like to become top executives, only 3 out of 10 women believed they could achieve it.
Regarding the pay gap, the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI) published in the fourth quarter of 2019 that the average income of women in Mexico is equivalent to 2.2 times the minimum wage, while the average salary of men is equal to 2.6 times the minimum wage.
When looking at higher levels of income, for every 7 men who receive 6,000 to 15,000 pesos per month, there are 3 women earning the same; while of those earning more than 100,000 pesos per month, 72% are men and 28% are women.
Women show us every day what it takes to lead. pic.twitter.com/AIXh6VlrkI
— UN Women (@UN_Women) April 11, 2021
These inequalities are also reflected in housework, since many women, in addition to fulfilling their professional activities, normally assume the greatest responsibility in raising children and in household chores.
According to the results of the National Survey on the Use of Time (ENUT) from the INEGI, in the so-called double shift, women dedicate an average of 39.7 hours a week to housework; while for men, it’s only 15.2 hours.
Children are raised to fulfill certain roles in which men and women must dress in a certain way, girls in dresses and men in pants; wear certain colors, girls in pink and boys in blue; assume predetermined roles, playing mom or playing superheroes; and do certain chores, learning to cook or learning to repair a car.
These roles are perpetuated even at school, as development is guided by gender roles right the way through from preschool to postgraduate level.
When Marcela Valadés was giving gender equity workshops to high school teachers at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), she came across preconceived ideas about the role of students in certain subjects.
“I came across a mathematics teacher who told me that when his students raised their hands to participate, he would only let the boys speak because they’re the ones that know mathematics, they’re the ones who really get involved in the subject. A female literature teacher also said that women are the ones who have the ability to write and tell stories.”
The academic from the Department of Educational Guidance and Care at the UNAM has dedicated herself to training high school and undergraduate teachers on how to implement gender equality in the classroom.
She recognized that there is some resistance, mainly from the Law, Medicine, Architecture, and Engineering teachers, which in some cases was due to their rigid or traditional training; they are not very tolerant to change.
“Male teachers think that the way they’ve been working for 25 years is right. But there is a more positive response from female teachers to making changes in the way they teach. They get more involved in making those changes.”
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Of the 331,000 students enrolled at the UNAM, 50.7% are women and 49.2% are men, and 1% do not identify their sex.
Although more women are studying for a degree, gender roles also reinforce stereotypes, as more women choose degrees such as humanities and social sciences; while in degrees such as Engineering, Mechanics, or Electronics, there are 9 women for every 100 men enrolled.
“What happens to the nine women on those degree courses? Because I provide psychological support, I’m aware that these women are discriminated against and harassed by their classmates. They say things like, ‘How are you going to learn calculus? This course is for men.’ On the other hand, in degrees such as pedagogy, psychology, nursing, and social work, there are 100 men to 480 women.”
In the academic sphere, the glass ceiling is also notorious, because only 33% of school and faculty directors are women and 24% of Level III academics in the National Research System are women. There has never been a female rector of the UNAM.
For Valadés, the key is coeducation, eliminating sexism, and talking about gender equality using inclusive language. Teaching workshops on gender equality and new masculinities to kids at elementary school and their parents, “are very slow changes,” she admitted.