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An entrepreneur during an interview published on this platform said that women’s participation in the workforce alone could add $6 trillion to global GDP.

At a time when countries are desperately looking to recover and add to their growth post several crises, especially the pandemic, this seems like a milestone that should be pursued.

A McKinsey Global Institute report showed women account for half the world’s working-age population but only 37% of GDP. This robs the global economy of $12 trillion in wealth. Another report, by the same institute, also showed Pakistan as the worst performer on gender equality in work, including categories such as education, maternal and reproductive health, financial and digital inclusion, legal protection and political voice.

A UN Women report, published as the ‘National Report on the Status of Women in Pakistan, 2023’, also mentioned the country as second last, 133 out of 134 countries on gender equality in internet usage in the Network Readiness Index 2020.

And this is the low-hanging fruit. Imagine the untapped potential that Pakistan has, and the wonders it could do to its GDP per capita. World Bank’s former country director for Pakistan Illangovan Patchamutha is quoted as saying that Pakistan can push its GDP per capita to $10,000 in 30 years by providing equal opportunity to women. This is more than six times its current income.

One can acknowledge Pakistan has its hands full with the need to constantly seek multi-billion dollar bailouts, fire-fight its way out of default concerns, and seek sustainable partnerships with several entities, including its neighbours. Reforming state-owned enterprises and the power sector can take several years, and requires the consensus of a large block of stakeholders.

But tech is where the challenge is met with much more ease.

Last month, Pakistan celebrated the ‘International Girls in ICT Day’, which is marked annually on the fourth Thursday in April. This year’s theme was ‘leadership’, and there was a lot to contemplate over for Pakistan.

The argument for female inclusion is not meant to be a slogan. Another McKinsey report highlights the importance of being diverse in your employment.

Diverse teams perform better, have improved output, and retain employees. All of this leads to better product design as well. In tech, product efficiency and design are of utmost importance. A massive demographic cannot be left out during the design and implementation phase.

This year, ‘International Girls in ICT Day’ also put focus back on the critical need for strong females to be in leadership positions in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers. These are important, foundational areas where women participation goes a long way in nurturing and mentoring a society you would want to be skilled, tolerant, and accepting of diverse views.

However, as a female tech entrepreneur, I can say with some veracity that women are almost entirely absent from software development, engineering, technology research, academia as well as at the highest levels of policy making. They also tend to leave science and technology jobs at higher rates than men.

STEM fields, which form the very basis of education and skill development, see the largest gap in leadership positions for women.

Cast the scrutiny net wider, and you will see that women in ICT often find themselves in junior or support roles where opportunity for advancement is lacking. This is hardly the inspiration model we want our future generations to witness.

While we review policy reforms that help more females join occupations that require high skills, it is important to remember that young males also need to be prepared to deal with a more literate and independent breed of women.

Research now indicates that by focusing solely on girls we run the risk of alienating young males, and will remain unable to prepare them to embrace a changing gender paradigm.

Hence, inclusivity has to be seen as a whole as we look to globally strengthen our commitment to halve the digital gender gap by 2030.

Since tech is the industry where women’s participation is easier in comparison as well – remote jobs, flexible hours, requirement of some skills and not advanced degrees – here are some policy recommendations that can make the path smoother for Pakistan.

Start off with organising networking opportunities for women especially those working remotely and as freelancers. A safe space, in every sense of the term, is what most women want.

Feature women in leadership as role models to motivate younger girls and enhance peer to peer learning.

At an organisation level, a simple endeavour as day care facility on premises will encourage women to pursue their careers. Global data says many women stop working, especially after having two kids. These are not unimaginable achievements. The policy recommendations and the benefits are enormous for a country like Pakistan where there is so much untapped potential. The country has to get out of crisis, and women’s participation in the workforce is one of the best ways to do it.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

Annum Sadiq

The writer works in the education sector


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Az_Iz May 15, 2024 12:33pm
I have six daughters. I am doing whatever I can to guide them into IT field. IT is a women's field. IT suits women's skills and abilities better.
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KU May 15, 2024 12:47pm
Women's role and duty is in kitchen at home. Saeed Anwar's words are true. There's something more precious than money, morality. A morally strong society is the need of the hour.
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Cecil Chaudhary May 15, 2024 01:22pm
@KU, what's immoral about women earning and being independent?
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