Welcome to the fifth post in an ongoing series, A GLOBAL LOOK AT RACIAL EQUITY. This series takes an in-depth look at social justice and equity issues on a country-by-country basis, with insight from Aperian Global’s experts.
Our fifth entry focuses on Mexico. For the full Featured Insight, visit this page.
Monolithic images of Mexico and its people abound. The country’s very diverse population is often lumped together under the broad category of “Latino” or “Latinx,” and depending on one’s perspective, it may be associated with people seeking to immigrate, maquiladora factories near the U.S. border, criminal gangs, or vacation resort sites such as Cancun or Cabo San Lucas. However, this nation of more than 130 million actually has the largest number of Spanish-speaking citizens of any country in the world, and its economy, ranked 11th overall, is second only to Brazil’s when compared with other countries in Central and South America.
A key aspect of Mexico’s diversity is the influence of its large Indigenous population. Approximately 21% of Mexicans identify themselves as Indigenous—there are more than 60 different Indigenous groups, each with their own language, and 7% of the population speaks an Indigenous language. Mestizos, or people with a mix of Indigenous and European heritage, are the majority of the country as a whole (53%). The balance of Mexican citizens include whites (estimates range from 10-20%) whose ancestors were Spanish, German, Lebanese, Italian, French, Lebanese, and so on, as well as Asian-Mexicans, most notably Filipinos and Chinese. Smaller numbers of blacks and mulattos, or those with a background that includes black ancestors, are also part of Mexico’s diverse heritage.
Foreign companies in Mexico seeking to counter bias and promote equity among Mexico’s marginalized groups should start with physical safety and health. In maquiladora factory settings along the border, for instance, it is common to offer in-house medical and dental care, on-site meals, transportation to and from work (some employees may not be able to afford vehicles), and even company-hosted social functions linked with holidays or other occasions. Precautions against organized crime, including physical threats and extortion, are likely to be necessary in some parts of the country.
Merit-based opportunities for hiring and promotion, including access for women, could provide a competitive advantage in contrast to local companies with more discriminatory or elitist practices. The hierarchical nature of many organizations in Mexico creates an atmosphere that can discourage individual initiative at the lower levels without management approval. Employees at the lower levels may expect to be told what to do, so companies seeking to foster such initiative at all levels may need to take deliberate steps to promote and support a more proactive work environment.
Walmart’s history in Mexico provides both a cautionary tale and a set of improved practices that could be useful reference points for other foreign companies. In 2012, the company’s Mexican subsidiary was accused of having bribed local officials to secure favorable zoning decisions, bypass environmental restrictions, and win permits to build new stores, while falsifying records of these transactions. Subsequent internal whistleblower charges were also covered up by company headquarters in the U.S. Walmart has now spent an estimated $900 billion on investigation and compliance costs since these accusations became public, and to settle charges that it violated the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in Mexico and elsewhere.
In the process of addressing this scandal, Walmart has developed an extensive set of compliance programs and organizational systems designed to prevent corruption, quickly escalate potential issues, and retain executive attention by requiring senior management to set and implement annual compliance goals tied to a “pay for performance with integrity” system.
More recently, Walmart Mexico, now the country’s largest employer with its nearly 200,000 workers, has sought to take the lead in hiring Mexicans from all backgrounds with its launch of a “blind CV initiative, with resumes without photography, name, gender or age.” If implemented as designed, this initiative could serve to counter common forms of bias against Indigenous people, blacks, women, and others who have traditionally been at a disadvantage in the hiring process.