...But The Road To Parity Is Plenty Bumpy

For many young educated women in their 20s, dropping out of the workforce to have children is expected in a society where the family is assigned an exalted role. Escartn at appliance maker Mabe says she used to make a point of hiring qualified women, but one by one they left.

The importance of family, however, can prove a boon for working women. In Mexico, the extended-family tradition means relatives often help out. Barroso's mother and two sisters assist in looking after her two children. Women who do reach management positions are also breaking with established work patterns. Mexico's long lunch hour means that professionals typically stay at the office late into the evening. Alejandra Lajous, who until recently headed Mexico's public television station, Channel 11, says she allowed mothers to spend part of the day working at home. "You have to administer by results," says Lajous, who served as the official historian for former President Miguel de la Madrid Hurtado and did much of her writing at home as her children were growing up.

Still, such changes affect very few women. About two-thirds of Mexico's salaried working women earn less than $200 a month, compared with just over half of all salaried men, according to 1990 census figures. When it comes to professionals, the disparities are even greater: Only 18% of women professionals earn more than $500 a month, while that figure jumps to 42.1% for men.

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