There are a lot of benefits that come with including women in the private sector in terms of creativity, innovation, and growth. We as companies must commit ourselves to creating the necessary conditions and incentives to retain the enormous potential that women represent for our businesses. This is particularly important when talking about maternity and reincorporating women in the work place after their children are born.
Maintaining female participation in our workforce is a challenge that concerns us all. If we fail to implement the necessary corporate policies to prevent female talent from deserting our companies, we will all continue facing the negative consequences. On one hand, women are negatively affected because of the loss of income, and quite possibly, their financial autonomy, upon leaving their jobs. On the other hand, companies are also affected since women represent a valuable source of human capital, an opportunity for growth, as well as an important and long-term training and talent investment.
The time has come to transform our mentality. A study published by McKinsey (2013), “Women Matter: A Latin American Perspective”, revealed that the belief that women do not return to their jobs with the same dedication after maternity leave persists among business executives. Female talent desertion in our companies can be avoided if we make a commitment to its retention.
The adoption of flexible work schemes or a home office setup is a step in the right direction. Likewise, allowing for alternating full-time and part-time work periods or other alternative schedule organization schemes promote an equilibrium between workers’ private and professional lives, for women and men. These initiatives also allow men to participate more in their children’s care and education. The emphasis should be on productivity and results, not on office hours.
Moreover, the public and private sectors should work together to encourage reforms in current legislation if we want to promote true gender equity. In Mexico, for example, the Federal Labor Law is limited to granting 12 weeks of maternity leave and five days of paternity leave. This unequal distribution reinforces the belief that domestic and childcare tasks belong to women. In Japan, on the other hand, parents of newborns can take up to 14 month leaves distributed between both mother and father. In addition, the law limits the workday to six hours and prohibits their employees with children under three years of age to work overtime. This implies a recognition of the co-responsibility in family and domestic life between men and women.
In the last decades, women’s role in society has become diversified to such a degree that they have reached higher levels of education and have participated more in the job market. However, despite these advances, women still carry a disproportionate load of domestic responsibilities compared to men. They are still the ones who leave their jobs more frequently to take care of home and children. When adequate conditions for women to balance their private and professional lives are not in place, many of them are forced to choose between one or the other. It is our responsability in the private sector to promote corporate practices so that women can enjoy motherhood on the one hand and move forward in their professional careers on the other.
The implementation of measures which favor a balance between female workers’ personal and professional lives is not a burden, nor is it an added expense for our companies. On the contrary, it is a solution that will allow us to preserve a valuable source of human capital to continue growing and contributing to our economies and societies on a greater scale.
Angélica Fuentes, Founder Equal Invest
Angélica Fuentes is a Latin American businesswoman and impact investor, who has been recognized by Forbes Magazine as one of Mexico’s most influential women.
Ms. Fuentes was appointed CEO of Grupo Imperial in 1992 and quickly positioned the company as a top player in Northern Mexico’s energy sector. Under her leadership, Grupo Imperial’s annual growth rate increased from 5% in 1992 to 9.5% in 2005. Ms. Fuentes served as President of the Business Energy Network of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Agreement (APEC) from 2002 to 2004, and as President of the Mexican Natural Gas Association from 1996 to 2000. From 2007 to 2015, she served as CEO of Grupo Omnilife-Angelissima-Chivas. Under her leadership, the company became one of the top 100 corporations in Mexico.
Throughout her career, Ms. Fuentes has dedicated significant time and resources to NGOs, international organizations and professional groups that support the cause of women. She participated in the World Economic Forum’s Gender Parity Programme, and led the Mexican Gender Parity Taskforce. She currently serves on Secretary Clinton’s International Council on Women’s Business Leadership; is member of the Private Sector Leadership Advisory Council of UN Women; is a Global Advocate for the Girl Up Campaign, a United Nations Foundation program; co-chairs the PVBLIC LATAM regional platform; is member of the Latin American Program Advisory Board of the Woodrow Wilson International Center; and is member of the Global Dignity’s International Council of Advisors.
Her work in this field has been recognized by numerous honors and awards. In 2015, UN Women gave her the Women’s Empowerment Principles CEO Leadership Award; she was the first female CEO to receive this award for championing gender equality in the private sector. In 2016, PVBLIC Foundation, Ismael Cala Foundation, and the United Nations gave her the award for Latin Woman Empowerment. In 2017, she received the Corporate Social Responsibility Award from The Maestro Cares Foundation.
Gender equality, women empowerment and the eradication of poverty have always been a priority in all her endeavors. In 2014, she established the Angelica Fuentes Foundation. In 2016, she founded A Complete and The Imperative Fund. In 2017, she founded Equal Invest, The Beauty Station and A Complete Journey.