Universities must train leaders with a strong social commitment to assume the empowerment of women as an integral part of corporate sustainability.
How can we promote and support the empowerment of women? This is a question that academics from the areas of Economics and Business Administration have continually discussed over the past few years. It is important to consider that, along with governments and civil society, companies are agents of change and promoters of the economic and social development of the communities on which they have an impact. That is why companies must commit to generating work environments based on the adoption of empowerment models that seek the development of their male and female collaborators alike, acknowledging the capacity of both men and women to give their opinion, make decisions and act on an equal level.
According to the Commission on Women Leaders for an Inclusive Economy, in Mexico, only 14,60% of companies have a woman in charge of the company’s highest position. This is also reflected in the board of directors and decision-making where the average participation of women is no more than 38% in Mexican companies. Therefore, companies need to design, apply and measure equality actions among their employees, ensuring that work environments are free and democratic for the development of all the women and men who work there.
“A traditional approach is normally used to teach business students, focusing on the production of economic value, while ignoring or failing to prioritize social commitment.”
A determining factor in bringing about this change is the role played by universities. A traditional approach is normally used to teach business students, focusing on the production of economic value, while ignoring or failing to prioritize social commitment. This is why it is so important for university students to develop administrative skills with a strong social commitment in order to design more inclusive models. Simply wishing that women’s situation in life were better is not enough. Business structures and models that truly favor women’s free thinking, opinions and choices are required, so that they themselves can be in charge of these changes.
Some Mexican companies have made significant progress in this area, enabling them to be considered socially responsible companies. Firms such as Restaurantes Toks, Grupo Financiero Banorte, Tupperware Brands Mexico and Softtek see in their collaborators the opportunity to develop new ideas for entrepreneurship and innovation in their brands and products, incorporating them into all the decision, distribution, design, innovation and development processes. Examples such as the social undertakings of Conservas Santa Rosa, Mole Doña Yolanda, and Granola Mazahua, developed by Restaurantes Toks to promote women's entrepreneurship, show that incentivizing and endorsing women can bear large fruits. For its part, in 2017, Grupo Financiero Banorte joined the Bloomberg Gender Equity Index, which recognizes work on gender equality issues at the international level (2017 annual report).
From this perspective, leadership positions should be held by people who assume women’s empowerment as an integral part of corporate sustainability, with recognition, empathy and social responsibility competencies.
“As educators, our responsibility to society is to guarantee that all the projects generated in our classrooms are truly inclusive and promote equal participation among all students, be they female or male.”
Environments that do not favor autonomy and empowerment ultimately become spaces with members who lack proactiveness, since they think that their opinion is of little or no value for their superiors. On top of this, given the limiting conditions experienced by women in Latin America, it is highly unlikely that gender equality goals can be fulfilled. Unfortunately, plans that are not implemented in conjunction with the development of autonomy, or do not propose rational, self-determination plans, tend to repeat patterns of dependence rather than empowerment.
As educators, our responsibility to society is to guarantee that all the projects generated in our classrooms are genuinely inclusive and promote equal participation among all students, be they female or male. Moreover, we need to support educational environments where the importance of creating spaces for freedom, openness to opinions and collaboration with a strong social focus is fully understood.
Universities have a responsibility to develop competencies that go beyond the discipline, considering that social intelligence and ethical commitment offer an excellent opportunity to form not only competitive leaders who will guide the companies of tomorrow but also better citizens and practitioners who will serve the society in which they live and work.
About the author
José Carlos Vázquez Parra (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Professor in the Regional Department of Humanistic Studies, Tecnológico de Monterrey, Guadalajara.