The recommendations in this policy analysis exercise stem from a careful analysis of the available human resources data of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mexico (SRE, Spanish acronym). They were consolidated for this project from information scattered in different locations of the Foreign Service and Human Resources Department (DGSERH) of the Ministry. This exercise revealed that despite the SRE’s effort to promote fairness and equality, there is evidence that women are disadvantaged in certain parts of the Foreign Service entrance and promotion processes.
In the entrance examination, I found a substantial gender gap in success rates in advancing from the first stage to the second stage of the exam, mostly due to score differences in the General Culture and English multiple-choice examinations. In the promotion process, I found a 0.19-point difference in scores for post level of responsibility favoring men. This is approximately equal to the average score difference between the lowest scoring promoted official and the runner-up. I also found a significant gender gap in assignment to hardship posts, which award a bonus point in the promotion exam to those who hold them, and seem to be more accessible to men. The causes for this phenomenon and attitudes towards it merit further research.
This policy analysis exercise recommends that the Ministry implement several measures to investigate the causes of differential performance by men and women in its entrance examination, rectify identified biases, provide better preparation opportunities for test takers, recruit more women to hardship posts, and launch a long-term sponsorship program for female diplomats. De-biasing measures might include a temporary gender quota, removing the guessing penalty and eliminating biased questions from the multiple-choice portions of the exams, relaxing time constraints, con- ducting interviews with one interviewer at a time instead of in panel format, and taking advantage of support from the Office of Gender Equality throughout the process. The sponsorship program would aim to prepare women to navigate the organizational system throughout their careers. These policies are designed to help the Ministry achieve a target of 50% women in the two highest ranks of the Foreign Service (Ambassador and Minister) and promote an institutional culture that under- stands and values gender equality.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs can implement these policies immediately and expect support from key stakeholders within and beyond the organization. At the same time, it should carefully consider the sequence in which different policies will be implemented as well as which aspects to emphasize when communicating about them in order to gain the support of actors that may present resistance. The selected policy options are not overly aggressive, to avoid causing excessive controversy; they are designed to bring the organization to confront the fact that more reforms are necessary for its inward policies to live up to the gender equality standards that Mexico promotes in international fora.