Embracing Equity: Advancing Women’s Empowerment and Inclusion in Pakistan

International Women’s Day is commemorated on 8th March every year around the globe to honor the contributions and achievements of women.

This year’s theme, ‘Embrace Equity’, highlights the importance of gender equity in all spheres of life, including the workplace.

Gender equity represents the idea of equal treatment or treatment that might be considered equivalent in terms of rights, benefits, obligations, and opportunities.

“Embrace Equity” draws attention to the persistent gender gaps that exist in the workplace. Despite progress made in recent years, gender inequality remains a significant barrier to women’s advancement in many industries worldwide.

According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2021, it would take another 135 years to close the gender gap fully.

The report also found that women’s participation and leadership in the workforce have increased globally, but progress has been slow and uneven across regions and sectors.

In Pakistan, gender equity in the workplace remains a significant challenge.

According to the Pakistan Economic Survey 2020-21, women’s labor force participation rate is only 22.8%, compared to 86% for men.

The report also highlights the gender wage gap, where women earn significantly less than men for the same work.

Women are often relegated to low-paying and informal jobs and have limited access to opportunities for education, training, and promotion.

There are various reasons for this disparity in Pakistan, from occupational segregation to work interruptions, and gender and cultural norms to inadequate training and education.

In recent years, several organizations in Pakistan have made significant progress in increasing female participation in the workforce.

More than 58% of listed companies in Pakistan have women on their boards, according to the country’s securities and exchange commission (SECP).

Telenor Pakistan is a notable example of the same effort, where significant attention is paid to developing women and their talents within professional capacities.

From employees to the female segment of our society, the organization supports initiatives that empower women across various capacities.

Their flagship initiative, Naya Aghaz, is an excellent example of their commitment to empowering women and harnessing gender diversity.

The program provides work opportunities for women on a career break to support their families or for other personal reasons, and they are now finding it difficult to get hired.

Since the program’s inception, they have onboarded 116 Naya Aghaz associates, with a successful internal placement rate of 39% collectively on different positions within the organization, and graduates of this program continue to work at various corporate sector organizations.

Technology, the most powerful tool at our disposal, is transforming the workplace and presents an opportunity to address gender inequities.

It has created new industries and jobs and changed the nature of work. It has also facilitated remote work, which can benefit women who face barriers to workforce participation due to social and cultural expectations, caregiving responsibilities, and mobility restrictions.

According to Telenor Asia’s Digital Life Decoded report, in addition to performance and productivity, nine out of 10 female respondents in the Asian region thought their careers and skills development have been positively impacted by using mobile technology.

Respondents in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and the Philippines experienced the most significant impact of mobile technology on their career and skills development, with over six in 10 seeing considerable improvement.

Telcos like Telenor Pakistan have also contributed positively to aid this collective challenge of gender disparity and the digital divide.

Telenor Pakistan’s Khushal Aangan platform was launched with the aim to empower Pakistani women in rural areas by providing them with information regarding health, nutrition, livestock, household management, and internet literacy.

The service has been subscribed to by more than half a million women from mostly rural and agri-focused regions of Pakistan.

In Pakistan, only 52% of the adult female population in Pakistan owns a mobile phone, with merely 21% of Pakistani women using mobile internet.

A significant increase in these numbers would mean that, along with the rest of the world, Pakistani women would reap the benefit of telecom and digital technology by supporting themselves and their families and consequently contributing towards the socio-economic prosperity of the country at large.

“Innovation and technology offer tools to challenge conventional gender roles, dismantle barriers, and foster inclusive workplaces that embrace diversity,” says Areej Khan, Chief Human Resources Officer at Telenor Pakistan.

“By leveraging the power of technology, we can construct a more equitable future and allow every individual to fulfill their potential, irrespective of their gender.”

“This vision aligns with Telenor Pakistan’s commitment to promoting gender equality and creating a work environment that values diversity and inclusivity,” she adds.

In Pakistan, we have seen how digital advancements and technological access have enabled women to find new opportunities in different fields like e-commerce, digital marketing, and software development.

Online marketplaces like Daraz, Markaz, and Tajir have given women entrepreneurs access to a broader customer base and enabled them to start small businesses.

In the workplace, technology presents new opportunities to address gender inequities.

Still, it requires sustained efforts and collaboration to achieve gender equity in the workplace and to address the underlying structural barriers that limit women’s access to education, training, job opportunities, and leadership positions.

This requires collaboration between governments, the private sector, and civil society and involving women in these discussions as they are essential stakeholders in this discussion.

Achieving gender equality and promoting women’s empowerment is not only a moral imperative but also an economic necessity.

Women’s contribution to the workforce and ability to reach their full potential is essential for Pakistan’s sustainable economic growth and development.

By creating a more inclusive and equitable workforce, Pakistan can unlock the full potential of its people and improve its global competitiveness.

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