Three years ago, Anne Marie Slaughter’s article why women still cant have it all created an international firestorm, feeding into the ongoing conversation on women, work, leadership and work-life balance. Counter to Sheryl Sandberg’s assertion than women weren’t leaning in, Slaughter showed that for many women, leaning in was simply not enough – how society thinks about work, parenting and women should change. To do so, companies need to change to better accommodate women in the workforce, new family dynamics and the meaning of work-life balance.
Rosa Aurora Quiroz Dahas is the Manager of Ecology and one of the two highest ranking female managers at the Port Authority of Manzanillo (APIMAN), a state-owned enterprise in the western coastal state of Colima, Mexico. Ms. Quiroz has achieved an enviable position for many women in the workplace, particularly in Mexico. Only 24% of managerial positions are held by Mexican women. Furthermore, the Mexican government has found that 59.6% of the women in state of Colima receive a lower salary than men for the same job.
The port industry in Mexico is traditionally male-dominated, particularly at the port operator level – a challenge that private companies in the sector continue to face. The local union operating in private port operations is one hundred percent male, even though much of the operations jobs are now mechanized.
Ms. Quiroz, who leads a team of six, believes that “having it all” depends on three success factors:
1) Focus on your professional development
In other words, yes, lean in. In the 18 years she has worked at APIMAN, she has seen an increase in young women taking on more technical and operational jobs. She believes that professional development through technical and communications training are crucial for career advancement, especially in male-dominated sectors. “I have to be my own leader, I work by results. I seek courses on the technical and legal aspects of my field, and encourage my team members to do the same, especially the women.”
2) Define your work-life balance
Work-life balance in the port industry is a daily challenge due to the hours, requirements and local culture. Ms. Quiroz has a very demanding job that often extends beyond formal work hours. “I enjoy my job and developing my career makes me very happy.” In order to find a work-life balance that fits her needs, she chose to have one child. She believes professionals must make personal decisions like this to find their “having it all’ equilibrium. Ms. Quiroz has no regrets about her choices and attributes her career success to being honest with herself and her family.
3) Find the right employer
One of the reasons Ms. Quiroz enjoys her job is because of APIMAN’s commitment to employee development and gender equality. In 2012, the port authority took the bold decision to become certified under the Mexican Norm for Labor Equality between Men and Women. APIMAN has twice as many male employees as female employees, yet the company has a higher retention rate for women than for men. APIMAN’s challenge is to increase the number of women accessing promotions and leadership positions.
The IDB provided APIMAN with technical assistance to help the port authority better understand the business case for investing in gender equality. We supported APIMAN in reviewing their human resource practices to remove any unconscious bias in talent recruitment and performance evaluations. In a male-dominated industry, such as ports, removing bias and increasing transparency are necessary for getting more women into leadership. APIMAN is trying to be innovative with work-life balance programs and reviewing options including a lactation room and flexible hours. Ms. Quiroz has seen the trend move from women holding more clerical and janitorial jobs at APIMAN to women entering career paths such as security, construction and engineering, among others and hopes that these changes could help bring more women into the company
Ms. Quiroz notes that offering some flexibility to parents of young children would further this professional growth. Another measure that has been working is the use of paternity leave, which was mandated by law in 2014 but is not utilized by many men. There is much work to be done to increase women’s leadership in the Mexican workplace. And while it is crucial for women to continuously develop their technical skills, women – and men – will have it all only when employers follow APIMAN’s example by publicly committing to gender equality and re-evaluating their talent management practices.