BY not maintaining gender equality and failing to incorporate the opinions and experiences of half the population, we are losing out on opportunities to improve health and economic growth.
The many reasons, both institutional and behavioural, for this kind of gender imbalance are highlighted in a joint UNDP and UN Women report that explores women’s representation and access to decision-making roles in Pakistan’s civil service.
Gender Equality in Public Administration looks at women’s perception of barriers and opportunities to identify discrepancies between official policies and their implementation with regard to inducting women in the civil service.
In the last 15 years, women’s labour force participation has increased by more than 50pc as documented — however, this still translates to employment for only one out of five women, according to the report.
Clearly, access to education remains an unrelenting obstacle to women’s empowerment.
Moreover, nothing will give without reforming policies to boost women’s economic rights.
Consider these figures: from 2013-14, the federal government (all grades1-22) inducted 444,521 persons in the civil service; only 20,428 were women.
Because traditionally defined roles compartmentalise women professionals, federal departments recruit more women as teachers and medical staff.
Besides most women are admitted into the civil service at entry levels; fewer receive promotions; and almost all face discrimination when it comes to selection and remuneration.
Realistically, it will take generations to remove entrenched gender stereotypes and misogynistic social norms, virtually enslaving girls for life and denying women agency.
Yet the only way to bridge the gender imbalance is through quality education — especially significant when higher education is a prerequisite to increasing women’s representation in the civil service.
Meanwhile, women’s political representation matters because countries with a larger number of women as ministers or in parliament witness lower levels of inequality, more confidence in government and higher health spending.
With few women in the provincial and federal legislatures in this country, political parties must support increasing female participation in government knowing it will contribute to improved trust in public institutions and favour more informed and inclusive policymaking.
When women have a voice in shaping public policy, it also maximises their economic potential which is critical to achieving national growth.
Despite girls outperforming boys at schools and even with more visible changes in the boardroom as women step into leadership roles, many are still denied their full potential.
Even men in power would concede this is socially unfair and economically flawed.