As gender discrimination and wage gaps persist in the American workforce, the U.S. government is spending $10 million to help tackle the issue in Mexico. The taxpayer dollars will fund programs that help improve gender equity in the Mexican workplace by increasing the number of women in union leadership, addressing discrimination and harassment at work, augmenting wages for women, and strengthening protections. “Gender equity refers to fairness in the treatment of women and men,” according to the grant announcement outlining the Mexican project. The goal is for worker organizations in the impoverished Latin American nation to advance gender proportionality in leadership and participation and that they undertake sustained action to promote gender equity in the workplace.
Uncle Sam is dedicating millions to this issue because “landmark” constitutional reforms enacted by Mexico in 2017 to transform its labor justice system have yet to be implemented. Among them are prohibitions against workplace discrimination, harassment and violence based on gender, the requirement of negative pregnancy tests for women to be hired, retained, or promoted and a ban against firing women who become pregnant. Sexual harassment by employers is also part of the four-year-old Mexican reform measures as well as a requirement for unions to have proportional gender representation. Additionally, workers in Mexico are supposed to be protected against employment discrimination based on sex, pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity, and caregiving responsibilities. The measures serve as “important advances,” the U.S. asserts, but “their implementation remains a significant challenge.”
So, the U.S. government will dole out millions with hopes of implementing the historic laws in a famously corrupt, sexist and crime-infested Latin American country that likely had no real intention to fulfill them. The cash will flow through the Bureau of International Labor Affairs, which operates under the Department of Labor (DOL). Grant recipients must assess the unique needs of underserved communities, including historically marginalized, underrepresented, and vulnerable groups and describe how any identified needs will be addressed, the grant announcement states. “Proposals that incorporate intersectionality to its approach to ending workplace discrimination, violence, and harassment, including sexual orientation and gender identity, will be more favorably considered,” the document reads, adding that consideration must be given to underserved populations, including isolated rural communities, female heads of household, and indigenous peoples.
Among the goals is to establish a union committee or commission for equality in Mexico, conduct a diagnostic report on gender equality and representation issues within worker organizations and specific workplaces, draft a protocol for eliminating violence and harassment among union leadership and support organizing efforts of workers around gender equity initiatives. Other desired goals of the investment include engaging Mexican employers on the four-year-old labor law’s gender reforms, developing approaches to prevent gender discrimination in the workplace, collective bargaining for equal pay and work-life balance policies that impact women and training unions and workers how to gather evidence and report gender discrimination, violence and harassment to union leadership, employers, and government authorities. The U.S. also wants to provide legal support to workers bringing cases related to gender discrimination, wage violations, failure to pay into social protection systems, harassment or violence, and other relevant areas.
In the meantime, the U.S. has issues of its own involving gender equity in the workforce. The gender gap in pay has remained stable over the past decade and a half, according to the nonpartisan think tank Pew Research Center. In 2020, women earned 84% of what men earned, an analysis conducted by the center shows. The COVID-19 pandemic hit minority women especially hard with nearly one in 12 black women 20 and over and nearly one in 13 Latinas 20 and over unemployed, according to DOL figures cited in a report published by the National Women’s Law Center. Working women in the U.S. also continue to face persistent pregnancy discrimination, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the government agency responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person’s race, color, religion, sex, transgender status, sexual orientation, national origin, age, disability or genetic information.