Understanding the Need

How Corporate Giants Influence Friendly Policies for Female Work Force in Pakistan

By Sidra Khan | March 2020


Ts Pakistan gets ready to celebrate this decade’s first Women’s Day, many questions linger in the nation’s mind – how much have we progressed since over the past year? Where are we lacking? Why is gender equality still a struggle? How much more do we need to do in order to get to a place where gender disparity is not something we need to worry about? As a Pakistani working woman, I belong to quite a few minorities and almost always seem to be on the opposite side of the tipping scale. I take the liberty of saying that we are not there yet. Strictly speaking as a professional, we haven’t reached the point where female employees don’t have to worry about losing their jobs over wanting to avail maternity leave or not getting the same salary raise and promotion just because they ‘might get married soon’ and ‘may want to leave their job thereafter’. A big part of the battle against gender disparity in the corporate sector is dispelling such biased notions.

Perhaps one of the most pertinent aspects, when starting a sensitive debate such as this, is to analyse whether we are headed in the right direction. Knowing that we are, certainly provides unmitigated hope and makes the struggle for gender emancipation bearable. In this regard a huge responsibility lies on multinational companies in Pakistan to set the right precedent for the small and medium-sized enterprises to follow. “Employers are wary of a high turnover with women as they feel women leave their jobs as soon as they get married and have children. The fact of the matter is that in this day and age, there is as high a turnover of men in the workplace as women. In fact, economic circumstances as well as higher levels of education are seeing more and more women entering the corporate sector in Pakistan. The real challenge still remains of climbing up the corporate ladder to positions of higher management,” Bond Advertising CEO Seema Jaffer says, pointing towards the changing trends despite the misconceptions.

On May 24, 2017, the Pakistan Parliament passed the Companies Act requiring women’s representation on public company boards in keeping with SECP requirements. This is a welcome step in the right direction and will encourage larger representation of women on these boards. However, the post-act performance of organizations leaves much to be desired. In the larger scheme of things, women are also being inducted in corporate boards as part of diversity drives and good corporate governance. However, the numbers are still dismal. A news report in Business Recorder says that only 21 out of 559 (a mere 4%) companies listed on the Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX) have a woman director on their boards. Research shows that businesses with women on their boards perform better and deliver higher returns than those with an all-male composition. Moreover, businesses with women directors are also associated with improved decision-making and lower corruption.

An essential component in eliminating beliefs that are holding women back in the corporate sector is to set actual examples that go against such ideas and replace the fear of prejudice in working women with inspiration and motivation.


An essential component in eliminating beliefs that are holding women back in the corporate sector is to set actual examples that go against such ideas and replace the fear of prejudice in working women with inspiration and motivation. Policies that are friendly to working mothers play a huge part in doing so. “The Nestlé Maternity Protection Policy is a comprehensive coverage granting all women a minimum of 6 months maternity leave. In fact, expectant mothers are also entitled to take reasonable time off for medical checkups during normal working hours for antenatal care,” said Waqar Ahmad, Head of Corporate Affairs, Nestlé Pakistan.

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The writer is a journalist and public relations associate in the corporate sector. She can be reached at sidrakhan2k18
@hotmail.com

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