Mireya Valverde Okon: Promoting Labor Equality

Mireya Valverde Okon

ACAMS Today interviewed Mireya Valverde Okon for International Women’s Day 2023. Valverde Okón specializes in criminal and financial law. She is an alumnus of the...

ACAMS Today interviewed Mireya Valverde Okon for International Women’s Day 2023. Valverde Okón specializes in criminal and financial law. She is an alumnus of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) and holds a master's in crime science from University College London.

Valverde Okón has more than 15 years of experience in the public sector. She currently works as director of Internal Comptrollership at Banco del Bienestar, where in addition to complying with internal and external regulations applicable to the bank, she is responsible for complying with national anti-money laundering (AML) regulations, fighting terrorist financing and preventing fraud.

Valverde Okón served as general director of Regulatory and International Affairs of the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) in Mexico. She has participated, as head of the Mexican delegation, in meetings and forums of international organizations specialized in AML and the fight against terrorist financing, such as the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the Financial Action Task Force of Latin America (GAFILAT) and the Egmont Group of FIUs, among others.

Valverde Okón has several certifications in the prevention of operations with illicit resources and against terrorist financing. She is also a professor at Universidad Panamericana, teaching classes on preventing money laundering, corruption and compliance. She also teaches other subjects at the Universidad del Valle de México. She collaborates with various institutions, such as the National Banking and Securities Commission and the FIU in facilitating training courses for certifications on the prevention of operations with illicit resources and terrorist financing.

ACAMS Today (AT): What led you to study criminal and financial law?

Mireya Valverde Okon (MVO): I have always been convinced that studying law has many benefits; it allows you to actively contribute to society and the country, it can promote fair laws, support the community, contribute to the authorities and participate in teaching and research. Criminal law protects the legal rights that need the most protection, such as life, liberty, property, security and health, among others.

Both in criminal law and in financial law, there was little representation of women until a few decades ago, which prompted me even more to study this noble career and thus have more solid bases to collaborate with justice.

AT: As a professor teaching different subjects at two different universities, what is the most important lesson you would like all your students to learn?

MVO: Undoubtedly, the value of justice is a fundamental value of every human being, which implies giving each one what corresponds to them, regardless of their conditions and respecting their fundamental rights. Likewise, regardless of the specialization of our choice, we can actively contribute to achieving a better society and country. In the same way, the participation of women is transcendental for the development of the country. Women have advanced in an unbeatable way in recent years in some social sectors; however, a greater impetus is needed in other areas.

AT: As a woman in the anti-financial crime (AFC) industry, what advice would you give to women interested in pursuing a career in AFC?

MVO: There is an increasing representation of women in AFC. However, greater leadership intervention is needed in the financial services industry to guarantee that women can work in conditions that are equal to men, through effective and transformative actions preventing any form of violence against them. We will only achieve this through the constant fight for gender equality and equal opportunities. A career in AFC allows you to contribute to the financial system in several ways. The financial system is extensive and allows specialization in different sectors at the national level. Multiple international organizations promote the participation of women in the fight against financial crime, and the public sector is increasingly benefiting from women's leadership. AFC careers are broad and allow women to develop in different fields (i.e., public or private sector and national or international contexts).

AT: This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is #EmbraceEquity. How would you like to see this theme exemplified in the workplace?

MVO: I believe that the best way to continue advancing in gender equality is by increasing the participation of women in decision-making processes and putting them in places of power, continuing to empower women in economic life and in all sectors.

It is essential that women have a voice and vote in all spheres so that they can participate on equal terms in dialogue and decision-making in order to influence the course that will determine the future of their families, society and their country.

Public life is one of the sectors where transformational leadership is increasingly seen and where the full participation of women must be guaranteed. For power sharing to become a reality, violence against women in the public sphere must be eliminated as well as social norms. Access to finance and legal and institutional frameworks must be transformed to support participation and equal decision-making.

AT: Looking back at your professional career, what are some of the highs you experienced and what were some of the lessons learned?

MVO: The constant challenges that women face in professional development, to name a few, include:

  • Even if a woman has the necessary experience and skills, she has more difficulties accessing higher-ranking positions and new job opportunities within the sector.
  • Labor discrimination is a matter of salaries, giving preference to men even when they perform the same tasks.
  • For many women, having children represents a problem or obstacle in their professional careers. It is considered that being a mother can get in the way of successful professional development.

Despite the fact that these challenges seek to be eradicated, it is necessary to continue promoting labor equality between men and women to recognize a good person for their effort and not for their gender.

The lessons are vast, and I have been fortunate to learn and be guided by smart and empowered women and men who recognize and support women. Undoubtedly, the best ally of a woman is another woman. The strength, integrity and security of a woman always has a positive impact on the rest of women, and this potentiates teamwork among women.

Interviewed by: ACAMS Today Editorial, editor@acams.org

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