Despite a lot of advancements that we see in the world of today, with women excelling in almost every field of work, I still find a lot of gender based discrimination instances, ultimately impeding the normal progression of a woman’s educational and career path. Although, a major percentage of the world’s female population is a part of the working industry now, there still exists a significant number that is lagging behind and is facing career development issues. We particularly find less women on top managerial positions in various companies. The reasons for such issues are diversified; a lot of women, particularly in Pakistan, lack the requisite education and training for senior positions, some don’t have enough confidence and courage to apply for higher positions and others find themselves excepted from the top positions league due to the systematic gender bias that exists in various firms.
This issue, however, traces its roots back to an extreme lack of free and quality education for children in Pakistan and to make things worse, young girls represent a major portion of the population affected. As per the latest Pakistan Education Statistics Report by Academy of Educational Planning & Management (AEPAM), Ministry of Education Pakistan, there are 22.84 million children out of school in the country. Also, another study indicates that boys in our country have a 15% higher chance of being enrolled for primary education as compared to girls. Moreover, Pakistan has been placed at second position, after Nigeria, with the highest number of children who are out of school, as per latest statistics by UNESCO. This situation, indeed, is alarming.
However, these are not the only issues. There are a lot of other factors that find their roots in our families and society and that hamper girls’ rights towards basic education and consequently their professional growth and development. Unfortunately, women in our society are penalized and disadvantaged for care-giving. It comes from the belief that girls shall be limited towards household responsibilities and money shall be invested in dowry instead of their education. This is because of our socially constructed gender roles where male members of the family are supposed to be the sole breadwinners of the family. Also, because of these care-giving responsibilities, women find less time to focus on their education and training and ultimately end up with lower technical and vocational skills as well as competency. This effects them in long-term.
Lamentably, Pakistan has been placed at the second last position out of 144 countries in a global ranking on gender disparities. The Global Gender Gap Report, released by the World Economic Forum benchmarks national gender gaps of various countries across the globe on economic, political, education and health based criteria and unfortunately, Pakistan’s rankings on all these pillars are disappointing, with the country holding the worst position in the South Asian region.
What can we do about it?
Observing the situation of gender based disparities in Pakistan and analyzing all the above mentioned obstacles bring us all to one important question: What is the Solution to all this? How do we overcome these obstructions? The answer is simple, “be the change you want to see in the world”. It’s the prime responsibility of each one of us, irrespective of our genders, to act in our possible capacity to break all the barriers to a girl’s education and women’s professional development. And all such acts for sure require tolerance and open mindedness, along with an added ability to support others to thrive.
At individual and family level, we should try to support the female members of our family by providing them adequate time to invest in themselves as well as their education/ careers. This can be done with the male members of the family sharing the responsibility of the females, and particularly realizing importance of their proper education. At corporate level, however, change can be brought by setting effective gender norms and policies that provide female employees with maximum growth opportunities. Resources shall be allocated to all the employees equally. Provision of flexible work schedules can also help greatly, particularly with those women who are constantly struggling to balance work and family life. Separate representation/ quota shall be set for females both in educational institutes as well as workplaces and a secure environment shall be ensured for them. Organizations shall also arrange mentor ship and training programs for female employees to enhance their skills to a great extent.
Countries in general and companies in particular cannot flourish and prosper until and unless the best talent is hired and retained, and this talent, for sure, includes both males as well as females. Gender equality is the key to sustainable development, as employing the knowledge and expertise of both genders enhances the effectiveness of various measures taken to a great extent. Women constitute one half of the world’s population; it is clear that if their talent is underdeveloped or underutilized, the economy will never grow as it could. Thus, it is high time to start investing in the schooling, talent and expertise of women and thus take Pakistan to a new level.
Instead of thinking “women are still facing education and career issues”, I hope people start thinking “What can I do to change this?”
Ms. Maryam Kamal
NOTE: VIEWS EXPRESSED IN THIS ARTICLE ARE THE PERSONAL VIEWS OF WRITER AND DO NOT REPRESENT PAGE