Countries with high gender disparity have limited economic opportunities for women. Pakistan ranks among the lowest in the world in gender diversity; Global Gender Gap Index 2020 shows that it is only ahead of Iraq, Yemen and Afghanistan. Even today, less than 50 percent of the female population is literate and only 20 percent is the rate of female labor force participation. As per a survey study conducted by [email protected], the Gender Diversity Ratio of companies stands at an average of 16.7 percent only where multinational companies have slightly better gender diversity ration compared to local companies. Gender disparity is worse for women in the information and communication technology (ICT), digital/ Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) careers in Pakistan. Only 16 percent of female computer science graduates are working versus 83 percent men.
However, higher gender gap and lack of inclusion of women in tech is a global phenomenon prevalent not only in the developing countries but also in the developed world. Globally, it can be seen that even though more and more women are going into higher education, it’s not particularly the same when it comes to STEM subjects.
But with digital and technological transformation, diversity and inclusion including that of women is becoming much more crucial. There is a need to make the growing field of IT more inclusive. It has to start with increasing female graduates in STEM subjects; developing the passion and exposing young women to STEM subjects at an early stage; starting digital skills apprenticeships, providing access to digital learning platforms such as smartphones, computers, internet etc. There is also a need for role models in the IT sector for women to emulate and aspire to increase their interest and thus improve gender disparity in the sector.
Apart from invigorating their interests and passions, the inclusion of women in the IT sector also depends on the efforts by the workplace. [email protected]’s ‘Diversity and Inclusion Framework: for Pakistani IT Companies’ report highlights the processes IT companies should undertake. These include organization wide D&I assessment; a D&I committee; goal setting and D&I audit. Company policies that are highlighted to reflect D&I goals include flexible working hours, remote working, paid maternity leaves, childcare facilities, transportation facilities, anti-harassment policies, etc. Employee engagement initiatives are also mentioned as a way to boost D&I in a workplace; these initiatives include recognizing, valuing and rewarding employee behavior at par, advocating work life balance, recreational activities, etc.
While the report sheds light on all the important aspects of D&I policies and practices and offers a D&I benchmarking tool and an action plan to assess D&I status and guide implementation process for the local IT companies respectively, the framework can be emulated by other local companies to increase diversity and inclusion in the workplace that is imperative for innovation and progress.