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KARACHI: Deputy Governor of State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Sima Kamil on Tuesday said that gender gap between male and female bank account holders is growing despite all efforts and the regulator as part of its ‘banking on equality policy’ has mandated banks that they should reach 20 percent of their own workforce as women from the existing average of 13 percent, by the end of next year.

Sharing her views at a panel discussion at ‘’Employer of Choice’ – gender diversity awards-2022’ at a local hotel, Kamil said female financial inclusion is the basic building block, but unfortunately most of our women even don’t have their bank accounts.

She said the gender gap between male and female bank accounts is growing. “If you look at active female bank accounts, they are about 14 million, compared to about 70 million from males. This is the main issue that SBP as regulator may look as market failure, and it is now focussing on the very issue.

She said SBP came up with ‘Banking on equality policy’ late last year which has five pillars. The first pillar was that banks need to have more women within their own organizations. Female workforce in banking sector was on average 13 percent when SBP launched the policy, which is very low.

“We have mandated banks that by the end of next year, they should reach 20 percent of their own workforce as women.” Kamil added saying this will change our global perception, and also attract foreign investments into the country.

The banking regulator has also given them [banks] targets and many banks including the Habib Bank Limited (HBL) have launched women focused platforms for related products and services – a good step in right direction.

“Our targets are beyond diversity,”

She said. “We want to tackle the issue (of gender inequality) and aiming some 25 million active female bank accounts by the end of 2024.”

The event was organized by International Finance Corporation (IFC), in collaboration with The Pakistan Business Council (PBC) here.

The other panellists were Muhammad Aurangzeb Chairman PBC, Musharaf Hai, Advisor Khaadi and Ghias Khan Chairman OICCI. Sammar Essmat Gender lead, gender and economic inclusion group, IFC moderated the panel discussion.

Highlighting the significance of gender diversity within the workforce, Ghias Khan said If we are more upon selling our products and services in markets outside Pakistan or convince people abroad to come in Pakistan and make investment, participation of women workforce is going to be incredibly important. OICCI is bringing more investment into the country, and share best practices of our member companies.

“We have very strict adherence to harassment and discriminations,” he said. The country needs a comfortable environment for women at workplace. Flexible working hours, transportations, day cares, financial inclusion, returnship programmes, etc., will attract women workforce and eventually it will give huge dividend and productivity to the country.

Ghias who is also the CEO of Engro Corporation said his company is currently at 10 percent in terms of gender diversity. “My personal goal is to ensure at least 35 percent participation in our leadership team as to be women, by the year 2026. We have right women participation at entry level so that they can grow to higher levels, he said.

Musharaf Hai on this occasion said: “Women are game changer. The engine of growth should be the women.” She said for the last over 7 decades the country has projected lofty mountains, lush green valleys etc, in order to attract the people from abroad. “I don’t know if that is strong enough for us to become a preferred investment destination,” she added.

Zeeshan Sheikh, IFC’s Country Manager for Pakistan and Afghanistan said that public information on gender-related policies is increasingly important for both investors, potential employees, and other stakeholders when evaluating companies.

We have been working closely with the PBC to help firms implement gender diversity policies and targets and publicly disclose this information to affirm their commitment – today’s award ceremony is an important recognition of companies leading the way in this regard.

Ehsan Malik CEO of BPC in his closing remarks said awards aim to recognize firms that have not only implemented strong gender diversity policies, but also communicate them—in annual reports, websites, or through social media—to encourage others to do the same.

“We believe companies can attract the best talent by implementing gender inclusive policies and disclosure practices,” Ehsan said.

These awards gave us a unique chance to work with some of Pakistan’s biggest companies to help improve the working environment and opportunities for women in the workplace.

Women’s labour participation rate in Pakistan is just 21 percent compared to 78 percent for men. Women face a number of barriers to succeeding in the workplace, from societal biases to structural challenges, such as access to safe transport and childcare. The country could increase its GDP by an estimated 30 percent if women contributed equally economically, according to an IMF study.

In tandem with the awards, IFC and the PBC produced a guide for companies on how to effectively develop and disclose gender diversity policies in line with the awards’ principles.

The Awards are based on the results of the Gender Diversity and Disclosure Scorecard, questionnaire developed jointly by the PBC and IFC focusing on how well firms implement and disclose policies based on the 5 gender equity principles such as Leadership and accountability, Gender Diversity (Workforce Representation) Gender Pay Gaps (Compensation and Benefits), Optimal Workplace Culture, Coaching and Mentoring for Female Employees.

Since December last year, 43 leading companies in Pakistan from various sectors prepared their submissions based on the Scorecard, using a web application developed specifically for this purpose.

Daraz, Pakistan’s biggest online marketplace was announced as the winner of the Employer of Choice for Gender Diversity Awards.

Second and third place were awarded to K-Electric and Engro Fertilizers Ltd, respectively, while seven companies received honourable mention awards. They are Nestle Pakistan Ltd; Engro Vopak & Elengy Terminals; Engro Polymer & Chemicals; Pepsico; MG Apparel; Telenor Pakistan; and English Biscuit Manufacturers.

Mike Nithavrianakis Brithis Deputy High Commissioner in Karachi and Trade director for Pakistan and others also spoke at the event.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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