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When you say it is your “better half”, but you treat it as the “worse half” the worst happens. Women are the center of every conversation. From corporate forums, to political corridors, to business talks, to the entertainment world, the discourse and display features women.

Does that show the importance of a woman? Yes and No. Yes, because in today’s world the conversation on DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) is all about the gender. No, because in most spheres it is lip service that loves the talk but hates the walk. Facts prove how fake these calls for more inclusion are. Stats show how hollow these claims are.

With only 25% women employed in the work force Pakistan has one of the highest gender gaps in the world. These women of course include the lesser educated ones. In the educated class women are still not coming up the ranks. In an IFC study conducted in 2021 less than 5% women make it to the senior management positions in Pakistan. Private companies in Pakistan are struggling to reach gender diversity targets.

More than half of the 86 companies across a range of sectors that responded to the study had less than 15 percent of women working for them, despite clear goals to reach the 15 percent target. Sixty-three percent had less than five percent of women in senior leadership roles, while 60 percent had either none or only one female member on their boards of directors. This is a sorry state of affairs and needs to be addressed not just on 8th of March each year but each day, in each policy, in each activity. There are many steps that need to be taken to make it an all-time imperative:

1- Women participation is not just a CSR activity— In most companies the mindset is of treating women issues like minority issues. They are “accommodated” in hiring policies. They are “bestowed” with benefits. Their days are celebrated with “due festivities”. All this should be done. Much more is needed. Such “occasional” actions undermine the status of women. Women are a majority in this country. No country can progress if 75% of half the population is doing nothing.

The latest research proves that women lead better and produce more profits than men. The Ready-Now Leaders report from the Conference Board as stated in Forbes magazine, shows that organisations with at least 30% women in leadership roles are 12x more likely to be in the top 20% for financial performance. Another research from Leadership Circle, based on assessments with over 84,000+ leaders and 1.5 million raters (comprising boss, boss’s boss, peers, direct reports, and others), shows that female leaders are more effective than their male counterparts across every management level and age level. What can convince companies more than this evidence. Lesser women in your management rank, lesser the profits. More women in your management ranks, more the profit.

2- Women leadership should be given a separate development agenda— While everybody agrees that men are from Mars and women are from Venus, companies insist on being “equal” in their treatment. The equality is on the basis of the same terms and “conditions”. Sounds perfect. Not practical. Women are different. They need a different understanding approach. What motivates men does not motivate women. The above Leadership Circle study compares Creative leadership competencies Vs Reactive leadership tendencies. Creative leadership is based on 5 competencies of Relating, Self-awareness, Authenticity, System awareness and Achieving. Reactive tendencies include Complying, Protecting and Controlling. Women leaders score significantly higher in all 5 creative competencies than men. They score particularly high in their capability to “connect and relate to others,” as well as in the authenticity and systems awareness competencies. This suggests that women leaders are not only better at building relationships but also that the relationships they build are characterized by authenticity and an awareness of how they contribute to “the greater good beyond the leader’s immediate sphere of influence.” Thus a women leader would respond much better if the organization is connecting and communicating at all levels. With work from home a norm it is an excellent opportunity for companies to ask the women leaders which days they are needed at home and let them decide their work schedules providing children and parents support in particular. While men may feel perked up by an exclusive club membership, women may never forget how their parents were provided special facility for networking in their parents’ choice of associations. Similarly, women will respond much better to individual coaching and advising covering personal and professional issues than just training or traditional executive coaching.

3- Male mindset needs to be reset— The mindset of treating women as glorified maids at home and glorified clerks at office needs a complete revamp. The thought process of hiring women to complete the 15% target needs to be challenged. The habit of assuming women can just do this, or, cannot do that needs to be questioned. This requires not just the ordinary gender sensitivity training but a complete overhaul of the code of conduct and performance appraisal systems in the company. They need to be coached by women coaches one to one to make them understand how to deal with their own perception and attitude towards women. WSCs (Women Support Circles) need to be formed where men volunteer to help, counsel and provide facilitation in work blockages that women face.

4- National agenda for inclusion— Governments are notorious for making women welfare ministries and then treat them as “also ran”. Rather than having this ministry, they need to ensure that each ministry is being made accountable on their DEI code of conduct. Are frontline ministries like foreign affairs, finance, commerce, Interior, health and education have the right inclusion ratios? Are policies being made with the correct consideration of women’s role? Is there the right legislation being done in the parliament to ensure fair representation? These are the hard areas that need to be tapped rather than the current practice of providing office space and labelling it Ministry for Women Development.

8th March is a great reminder of making commitments on women development. But, it is also a proof of how little happens from 9th of March onwards.

Imagine how much our country can develop if the women work force participation grows from 23% to 50%. Imagine how much more profitable companies will be if women contribution in the senior level increases from 5% to 10%. Time to do it is here and now.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

Andleeb Abbas

The writer is a columnist, consultant, coach, and an analyst and can be reached at [email protected]

Comments

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KU Mar 14, 2024 10:43am
Very valid article, the truth is that women face a difficult time in our society and harassment at work place, and it's shameful. Justice is a far cry for them.
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