Experts for revised approach towards gender equality

KARACHI, Dec 04 (APP):Experts addressing a conference “The Time is Now: Gender Equity and Women in Leadership” held at Aga Khan University urged countrymen to rethink their approach towards gender equity.

It was particularly emphasized that country’s economic and social development indicators will continue to lag behind other counties until it commits to gender mainstreaming besides reviewing the existing concept of gender equity.

Speakers including Roshanah Zafar, Managing Director, Kashf Foundation, Lindsay Mossman, senior gender equality adviser at the Aga Khan Foundation, Shazia Syed, Chairperson and CEO Unilever Pakistan, Dr. Ayesha Mian, Chairperson, Psychiatry Department, AKU and others noted that there was widespread misinformation about the scale of gender inequality in the workplace and society as a whole.

This was said to be besides the fact that most people are willing to assert that men and women should be treated as equals yet they rarely question why there continues to be a lack of women in upper management and leadership positions across the public and private sector.

Country was reminded to be the second-lowest rank in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2018, behind all other countries in South Asia and that estimates suggest that it will take over 70 years for the country’s men and women to have equal levels of economic participation and opportunity, parity in educational and health indicators, and similar levels of political empowerment.
Speakers at the conference called on organisations to make their planning and decision making processes more sensitive and responsive to the importance of gender.

The approach, often referred to as gender mainstreaming, would enable the country to achieve gender equality, they said reiterating that this would require workplaces to place a greater emphasis on collecting and reporting on the performance of programmes by gender.
This was suggested to necessarily include details on how many men and women are promoted, those dropping out of the workforce or, how a company’s operations affect each gender.

In the absence of gender-disaggregated information, management was cited to be unable to monitor whether initiatives to narrow gaps are working nor can they be held accountable. Gender mainstreaming, they said also requires a commitment to parity in interview panels and committees. Organisations
should always be asking themselves if there is a diverse group of decision-makers on the table that represent different strengths and perspectives, speakers noted.

Moreover, parity needs to be present at all levels in the organisation: boardroom, executive level, senior management and general workforce.

In the long-term, the presence of a critical mass of women in leadership positions has been found to have an aspirational effect on other females, speakers added.

Dr. Ayesha Mian also the dean of AKU students commented that there were strong cultural norms and structural inequities that continue to hold women back and that these norms mean that men
are rarely expected to make compensations in their career for their family, or to play an equal role in parenting and caregiving.

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