Despite forming half the population of the world, women in both developed and developing countries lag behind their male counterparts when it comes to participation in the workforce and economy. The pay gap between genders has hardly shrunk even in some of the world’s most advanced economies and there exist several legal and social barriers which prevent women from maximising their work potential either at salaried positions or through independent ventures. In developing countries these issues are exacerbated by laws and unwritten rules of behaviour that are still biased against women’s economic independence. In Pakistan for example, although there are some examples of extremely successful female professionals and business owners, women are largely absent from discourse pertaining to economic activities. Underrepresented both in legislative bodies and the management level of the corporate sector, new female entrants to the workforce find their paths blocked by policies that have been devised without keeping their needs or thought processes in mind.
In Pakistan, women’s primary role is still considered to be that of a caregiver. Although many now find their way to university, there is a tacit understanding that a choice will inevitably have to be made between building a family or building a career and that these are two incompatible goals. Under such pressures and confronted with such realities as their diminished status in matters of inheritance, lower pay, lesser chances of promotion and workplaces that do not accommodate working mothers all contribute to their giving up. Women who decide to set up their own businesses must contend with laws which do not consider them to be an independent individual but rather the dependent family members of their father, guardian or husband. As a consequence, women find it difficult to have their business ideas taken seriously and also to secure the necessary funding. It is also an uphill battle to develop extensive networks required for a successful business. Needless to say, there is much more that needs to be done by government bodies to support women who wish to join the workforce.