When we hear the term gender, perhaps we think about issues related to girls and women. Actually, the concept of gender refers to the roles, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for men and women. Gender refers to the way society has shaped our behavior, how we are expected to relate to each other, the activities we participate in, and the way resources are distributed.
Historically, men and women have been socially conditioned to conform to certain roles and expectations; these biases are often silent, almost invisible, but deeply rooted. This is why a “gender lens” is required: it might be necessary to observe through certain screens to identify all the biases and unequal practices that take place around us.
If you usually wear glasses, you will understand how difficult it is to see things clearly without them. You might be able to move around, but you can’t read things well. Whether it is the tiny print on an instruction manual or a road sign, they look blurry to you. Looking at the world without a gender lens is just like that: reading without glasses.
We live in a world where the “default settings”, what may be perceived as “normal”, have been configured by a male-dominated perspective. There are infinite assumptions that underlie our vision of culture, work, and life itself. Gender lenses bring attention to them, question them, in order to objectively examine how these practices have resulted in inequality.
As a CEO and founder of several companies, I have experienced many barriers and discriminatory situations. In spite of the advances achieved in the last decades in corporate gender equality, women still face an “iron ceiling” that limits their opportunities and full development. I learned that goodwill by itself does not change an organization. In order to shape a more inclusive environment where everyone has equal chances to succeed and shape stronger economies, companies must undergo a process of analysis and formulate concrete action plans to eliminate any form of discrimination.
The first step of this process is applying a gender lens to all areas of a company: across the value and production chain, at all levels of hierarchy, to products and services, and of course, to development opportunities offered by the company. There is an imperative need for more precise, efficient gender-lens tools. Wide-ranging standards are required to achieve a deeper analysis of a corporate culture. This is why I decided to develop a proprietary gender-lens tool. This screen sheds light on a company’s corporate culture, identifies critical challenges, and helps stockholders find ways to address them, by implementing improvement plans and innovations.
Good practices are also documented through a gender-lens analysis: many companies across the globe have successfully implemented initiatives and policies that support gender equality. For instance, more corporations have become aware that there are few women on their boards and are eliminating barriers so that women can ascend the corporate ladder based on merit. However, there might be other ways in which our dominant culture makes discrimination invisible. This is why gender-lens instruments need to be carefully designed. Advancing towards equality requires assessing all the impacts and circumstances through a wide range of indicators.
Is a gender- lens analysis only about women? No. Efforts against discrimination require men and women’s inclusion and collaboration in order to have a real impact. Corporate policies to promote equality within a company should also include men. Applying a gender lens to evaluate the corporate world does not only mean opening more doors to women; it means leveling the playing field for everyone, providing equal opportunities based on talents, skills and leadership, not on gender.
Gender- lens perspectives are transforming the way we look at the world itself. This approach broadens our perspectives and helps us take advantage of the immense talent pool that is latent in diversity and women’s empowerment. It is in our hands to unleash this power.
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.