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Could tower companies play a pivotal role in gender equality?
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By Arianna Neri – 18 January 2021 – TowerXchange – Historically, the rate of female workforce in Mexico has been low and oftentimes skewed towards the so-called “informal economy,” forcing female workers to accept zero benefits, suboptimal working conditions and low salaries. For this reason, I am particularly excited to write about Mexico Tower Partners and its achievements in gender equality. And I am even more excited to do so these days, when women’s employment is deeply affected by the consequences of the devastating pandemic hitting the entire world.
The Mexican towerco – part of the Digital Colony group of companies – has recently achieved over 45% of female employees of which 32% sits in leadership/executive roles. This has been possible because of the training programs that the company offers, which reached 82% of women employees as well as by a set of measures and policies enabling women to balance their work and personal life.
In the words of Patricia Bogarin, MTP’s Head of Legal Affairs and Compliance, “While it’s key to have a strong corporate policy that outlines the company’s best practices and values while promoting a culture of equity, inclusion and diversity, these values need to be exemplified in how a company operates, rather than a separate program.”
While written policies can outline what the company stands for, it is even more important to actually walk the talk and make those changes happen, against all bias and preconceived ideas. In fact, Bogarin continues “Instead of only having our employees hear about diversity in our policies, we create and promote support within our company culture. At MTP, these values of equity, inclusion and diversity are embedded in our people processes and put into practice when it comes to hiring, performance reviews, training, promotions, salaries, and bonuses. For example, at MTP we strongly believe and promote gender balance workforce by offering positions not based on gender but rather on qualifications, despite this not always being the case in Mexico. From our female structural engineer to our female attorneys, we embrace diversity by not relegating women to stereotyped positions or activities. Instead, we have created and maintained a culture of inclusion, respect, and zero tolerance of discrimination.”
Interestingly, the Mexican gender gap in education has been bridged, with the rate of women enrolled in bachelor’s degree programs in 2018-2019 reaching 49.5% and rising to 52.1% in postgraduate courses (source: OECD, Education at a Glance 2019: OECD Indicators: Mexico). Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about women’s participation in the labor force which, according to the World Economic Forum remains lower than that of many emerging countries. In fact, less than half of working age women (15+) are active in the labor force (i.e. either working or actively looking for a job). Specifically, in 2019 only 44.2% of women were in the labor force, versus 78.5% of men (source: The Global Gender Gap Report 2020, Data Explorer Mexico).
Across the entirety of Latin America and the Caribbean, the participation rate of females in the labor force stands at 52.3%, according to the World Bank. Therefore, the steps taken in the direction of gender equality by towercos and other companies are not only important for Mexico but extremely relevant for the region as a whole.
With regards to female leadership, Bogarin adds that “We firmly believe in creating female leaders and bridging the gender gap. We do this by upholding flexible policies around maternity leave, childcare, and medical appointments. In addition, in the last year, our training programs reached more women than ever for a total of 82% participation. This has allowed us to reach an unprecedented number of women managers and directors. Among these women, Martha Coronel, then director of O&M, was promoted in 2019 to run our core business, the development of telecom sites. Martha leads the biggest team in the company with over 30 employees under her leadership. Martha along with all of the other women in MTP represent our vision for the telecom industry and LATAM at large. We hope that by not only demonstrating representation, but also empowering women within our office walls, change will take place.”
Another key aspect which plays against gender equality in the workplace is the assumption that women will at some point give up their career to be stay-at-home mothers. MTP’s Access Analyst Anahi Martinez is the living proof that family and career can co-exist, if companies allow it.
Anahi told TowerXchange that “During my pregnancy, I presented a series of complications because my baby was not growing at a normal rate; however, MTP supported me at all times by accommodating my working hours around my numerous medical appointments. When my baby arrived, MTP continued paying me regardless of the fact that by law, the social security pays the maternity time; MTP also allowed me to stay at home with more paid time off with my baby. Once I returned to work, I was able to have flexible hours and break times for nursing my newborn. In conclusion, during and after my pregnancy, I have felt valued, respected and even spoiled by MTP as they provided me with all the support I needed during those challenging times.”
Providing benefits beyond statutory pay and leave is a groundbreaking move and one that can truly go a long way in empowering women to find the right balance between their personal and professional life. Women in the workplace play a fundamental role thanks to their soft skills, ability to multitask, and track record of high standards and quality.
This is a timely discussion especially due to the fact that COVID-19 has had a huge economic toll on women. While the impact of the pandemic has been brutal on the majority of the world’s population, women are effectively “bearing the brunt of the economic and social fallout of COVID-19. […] For countless women in economies of every size, along with losing income, unpaid care and domestic work burden has exploded.” (source: UN Women “COVID-19 and its economic toll on women: The story behind the numbers”)
While this is not directly referred to towercos, this industry has an opportunity to overturn the negative trend and make an impact towards higher levels of gender equality. This is even truer and more crucial as the sector is likely to emerge from this global emergency only marginally touched, if not unscathed.