By Maria Jose Flores – Legal and Compliance Manager, MODEC Mexico
Regulatory challenges and managing risks are some of the everyday issues almost every energy company must face. Whether it is an oil company, a utility, a partner, or a contractor; current organizations must be prepared to meet requirements and manage all types of risk. Also, to maintain capital and operative security, and efficiently respond to legal incidents.
In this sense, compliance in the Mexican energy sector is currently a crucial topic to consider. Mainly, seeing that the game rules for companies in the industry, particularly under the current administration, are constantly changing.
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Two crucial areas to address
Not only is the compliance requirement one in which the Mexican industry should learn from offshore experiences and benchmarks; but it also is the diversity and inclusion one. According to 2020 numbers, women only represented 10% of the energy industries’ workforce. Moreover, only 16% of this industry’s top management positions were occupied by females; and 40% of junior energy positions in the country were filled by women.
In this regard, in interview with Energy Capital, María José Flores, Legal and Compliance Manager with MODEC Mexico; talked about the particularities of the Mexican energy sector compared to other countries more ‘advanced’ in terms of compliance and benchmarking.
Further, María José shared some key perspectives regarding the role of women in the energy sector. More personally, she addressed the challenges she needed to overcome as a female professional in the industry. Also, the importance of integrating a comprehensive gender perspective within organizations.
Compliance in the Mexican Energy Sector: Still a long way to go
María José is a highly experienced professional within the energy sector, mainly in the compliance area, where she found a particular interest in her early years as a lawyer. “Compliance is everywhere, in all the areas of the company. In a small or a big step, it is in all the processes and areas of a company. So, little by little, I started to get engaged with that.”
Indeed, Mexico is still in an early stage in terms of compliance legislation. As María José notes, the country still has “a long way to go to be compared with other countries.” Consequently, some of the most vulnerable topics with respect to compliance in the country are corruption and facilitation payments. To these issues, adds the little knowledge on the matter.
However, Mexico can still overcome these issues and follow other countries’ examples in the subject. “I do think that these countries are in a position to be an example to follow. Therefore, we could take advantage of their expertise and mistakes,” María José said.
Gender perspective and breaching the gaps
Regarding the challenges she had to overcome as a female professional in the sector, María José referred to the need to make her voice —and of other female colleagues— heard. “I believe we as women have a lot to say, and I found that there very few spaces where we can freely express ourselves. Many times, you have to work twice as hard to show that you have an important voice and that we are in the right place, knowing what to do.”
Thus, the differences between foreign companies currently operating in Mexico and the national ones regarding gender perspective and related policies are considerably visible. As María José notes —who has experience working at both private and public organizations—, the differences are evident.
For instance, several foreign companies have taken the time to make awareness and open spaces for the participation and learning of women in the industry, María José noted.
On the other hand, many Mexican companies still lack substantial female participation within their workforce, mainly in managerial positions; therefore, there’s an opportunity area where national organizations could follow their foreign counterparts’ example and start breaching an unfair gap.
Finally, María José shared a piece of advice with other young women interested in starting a career in the energy sector and aiming to reach a leadership position such as hers within the industry. Thus, she recommended staying curious and go after their professional and personal goals simultaneously.