Female Forwarad
Challenges to women's economic freedom

To the extent that women have economic independence, they will be able to make their own decisions and become masters of their future.
economia mujer
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I do not want women to have power over men, but over themselves.

Mary Wollstonecraft, English philosopher and writer

Economic freedom represents the possibility to choose. Choosing the clothes I want to wear, choosing the job I want to do, choosing what I want to satisfy my tastes, interests and needs. Economic freedom means autonomy and, when a person does not have it, it means that someone else is deciding for them.

In a society where 90% of those who drop out of the labour market are women, how free is that society really? Economic freedom is crucial for social development, poverty reduction and improved well-being, but it is still a distant reality for many women in Mexico and around the world.

Silent violence

Gender-based violence takes many forms, but we commonly associate it with sexual or physical violence. Economic violence, equally dangerous, operates on a more silent and subtle level; we cannot see it in the street, nor can we hear it so easily, which keeps it from our attention. In Mexico, 27.4% of women have been victims of economic violence and/or labour discrimination, and 2 out of 10 suffer it directly from their partners, representing a barrier to escape from circles of violence.

INEGI (National Institute of Statistics and Geography) data reveal common reasons for job discrimination, such as fewer opportunities for promotion (10.8%), lower salaries than their male colleagues (9.8%) and restrictions on certain tasks intended only for men (6.3%). In sum, the reasons also include ethnicity, age, marital status, pregnancy.

“Women who enjoy long-term economic autonomy tend to be less exposed to situations of violence,” stressed Lourdes Colinas, National Officer and Empowerment Specialist at UN Women in Mexico.

Promoting economic autonomy implies addressing barriers to access to the labour market and entrepreneurship, generating jobs, facilitating women's participation in the economy and contributing to overall well-being.

Just because you can see it, doesn't mean it's not real.

The work that women do behind a home's door is often overlooked. Although we may not see them in offices or factories, women devote significantly more time to unpaid work, from care work to tasks essential to sustaining the household. This unrecognised work has a substantial economic value, estimated by INEGI at 7.2 billion pesos, equivalent to 24% of the national Gross Domestic Product.

This ignored work is one of the main reasons why women fail in their ventures, since 25.1% of women entrepreneurs stated that they do not have enough time to dedicate to their projects. Other reasons identified in the Radiography of Entrepreneurship in Mexico 2023: Women's Edition are lack of market knowledge (32.7%) and lack of liquidity/lack of working capital (28.9%).

Gender inequality, evident in various aspects of life, from the home to the labour market, highlights the urgent need to boost women's economic inclusion. Mexico, as the country with the fourth lowest female economic participation in Latin America, with just 40.6% of the country's labour force, faces significant challenges that require attention and action.

An agenda for economic parity

Women's participation in the economy is in the interest of all societies. Women's entrepreneurship has proven to be more diverse, not only by contributing to the social development of their community, but also by seeking to generate a positive impact on the environment and tending to generate jobs for other women or minority sectors of society. 

Despite progress, reality shows that considerable challenges remain in the quest for economic equality and equal opportunities for women. Continued effort is required to remove the barriers that limit their full participation in the labour market and in entrepreneurship. This commitment must come not only from the private sector, but also from the public sector through public policies that strengthen and guarantee their access to the economy.

Strategies such as the integration of the gender perspective into public policy programs and the development of private sector initiatives that allocate budgets to support women-led businesses are steps that deserve recognition. Although Mexico offers a wide range of support for women, access to investment funds is still a pending challenge. There is a perceived lack of investors, and in turn, a lack of dissemination of these programs. In collaboration with ASEM, we developed a document that presents proposals to strengthen a public-private agenda in favour of women's entrepreneurship in Mexico.

The full inclusion of women in all economic spheres is more than just a matter of social justice; it is an essential strategy for the sustainable development of any society. To the extent that women have economic independence, they will be able to make their own decisions and will be masters of their future.