Carlos Danel, chairman of the board at Gentera and a member of the World Economic Forum’s Gender Parity Task Force, talks about what’s being done in Mexico to achieve gender parity – and why it’s in everyone’s interest.

You’re part of a task force that’s working to close the economic gender gap in Mexico by up to 10% in three years. What concrete measures have you identified to achieve this?  

The private sector has a big part to play in closing the economic gender gap. Our task force, which includes influential businesswomen such as Angelica Fuentes, has pinpointed a few areas to focus on. This includes implementing training and mentoring programmes for high-potential women managers, putting in place measures to increase female representation on boards of directors, and establishing what workplace policies could help narrow the economic gender gap. We’re not just concentrating on management and director levels – we’re looking at how to increase female participation across the whole labour force, including at the lower end of the income scale.

What do you think are the biggest obstacles to narrowing the gender gap?

One of the biggest challenges is changing the male-oriented culture in Mexico. Overcoming this obstacle will not be easy, as it’s something deeply rooted in each individual’s personal mindset, behaviour and attitude. Both women and men perpetuate gender stereotypes, and it will therefore be difficult for the task force alone to resolve this issue. However, we’re calling on Mexican leaders to set a positive example for their employees and clients and we’re encouraging the general public to strive for respect, equality and access to opportunities for all.

What has given you the most hope that real change can happen?

Everyone has a basic human right to dignity – women, men and children. Historically, though, women have been systematically denied the rights and opportunities to fully participate as productive and valued members of society. We have an obligation to provide the sort of environment where women can flourish and succeed in all their capacity as human beings. Most people recognize this now, and that gives me hope that the situation can change. Lots of progress has already been made, we just need to keep pushing for more.

So there is a moral duty to narrow the gender gap. Is there also an economic argument to justify the importance of gender parity?

We’ve known for quite some time that respecting and supporting women in all aspects of their lives is a moral duty. Today, though, we have a plethora of concrete evidence showing that it is not only the right thing to do – it’s also the smart thing to do. The economic benefits of gender parity for countries and economies are huge. In Mexico, for example, increasing female participation in the workforce could increase per capita income by 14% between now and 2020, and by as much as 20% by 2030. Indeed, the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report has consistently shown that high female labour participation rates correlate positively with competitiveness. As for companies, those with a high representation of women on boards financially outperform companies with low representation by almost 30%. The economic benefits of gender parity stretch far into the future – the World Bank’s 2012 World Development Report found that economically empowered women are in a better position to invest in the health and education of their children, ensuring a strong future workforce. Gender parity is not just a moral duty, it makes economic sense.

The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is “Inspiring Change”. How is the task force working to inspire change in Mexico?

We are encouraging the development and transformation of every individual – women and men. I have witnessed the enormous capacity of women to realize their full potential as providers, parents, leaders and partners, so I firmly believe this world can only be successful if we support men and women equally in all their life pursuits.

This blog is part of a series for International Women’s Day.

Image: Shadows of women dancing are cast on the floor during the “One Billion Rising” campaign in Cancun February 14, 2013. REUTERS/Victor Ruiz Garcia