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Womens struggle in Pakistani workplaces

Last week, the world celebrated womens day with accolades for high-achieving women in various spheres of life. In Pakistan, meanwhile, pretty much a mans country in a mans world, women still continue to struggle in workplaces in more than one ways.

Harassment at the workplace is something Pakistani women have come to accept as a sorry fact at many workplaces. While many private organisations in the formal sector have stringent anti-harassment policies, there continue to be cases of misconduct, especially in mid-size companies.

As for harassment in the informal sector, there are no regulations and guiding principles to ensure a safe and trouble-free work environment for women.

The Protection Against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act 2010 classifies a) abuse of authority for sexual favours; b) creating a hostile or uncomfortable environment for women workers; and c) retaliations – such as by giving a poor performance review or badmouthing the victim – as manifestations of harassment at the workplace.

“Harassment is one of the biggest hurdles faced by working women preventing many who want to work to get themselves and their families out of poverty,” the Act rightfully points out.

Being sidelined for promotions and increments – the (in) famous glass ceiling – is another drawback of being a female worker in Pakistan. Its not uncommon to find many women left wondering why a male colleague was promoted while they were held back despite an astounding performance at work.

Besides these, on average, women are paid lower than men in most organisation, for reasons best known to the chauvinistic mind.

Encouragingly, the percentage of women in political roles and in the boardroom has increased. An article in German International Broadcaster DW said, “Women now make up 4.6 percent of board members of Pakistani companies,” citing a February 2011 report on women in the boardroom.

This isn significantly lower than the percentage in neighbor India, – five percent – but pales in comparison to that in the developed world – 16 percent in the US and 9.4 percent in UK.

Everyone acknowledges the great role that women play in decision-making within homes – the very foundation of any economy, including Pakistan. So why shouldn their decision-making skills receive the acknowledgement and appreciation at the workplace too?

Source: Business Recorder