Nov 05 - 11, 2007

When we talk about the role of women in Pakistan, we are actually discussing an economy where the percentage of services sector in the economy has risen to more than 50% and also the urbanization has grown at a very rapid pace to avail the scarce resources that are not sufficient for the existing population of the urban areas.

Services sector has grown in the urban areas mainly driven by the financial industry. In urban areas, there were not many opportunities for female employment where they could work with their free will without any financial constraints. This is the reason why traditionally, there was disparity in the proportion of the number of working women across different classes. The things have changed now. Urban areas now offer a variety of jobs for the women in almost all the areas. The growth in the services sector has reduced the demand for the manual labor and hence women are aggressively participating in the overall growth of the economy due to increased employment rate in the services sector.

The percentage of working women in the financial sector has significantly improved in the recent times. It has created great economic activity in the country. Private sector started taking greater interest in the education sector which is evident by the number of business schools in the urban areas in the country as compared to five years ago. The number of graduates passing out from existing business schools has exponentially increased due to enormous market appetite for human resource in the financial sector which is still higher than the supply from the leading business schools. When one gives a round to the leading business schools then the higher proportion of the girls in the business and management courses is evidence in itself of rising role of women in the economy of Pakistan.

Catalyst, an American consultancy firm, found that American companies with more women on job had higher rate of return on their investments than those with lesser number of women. The gender disparity can also be good for the organizational environment as it has been proved by the study that organizations with a mixed workforce of men and women have better working environment than the organizations with only men or women.

In the families where female education is given priority, the trend of profession has changed from the traditional to the modern. The traditional professions were Doctor, teacher and Lawyer but now one can easily find financial sector with relatively higher density of working women than ever before.

We have society of men dominance but women empowerment. Almost all the household budgetary decisions are made by the women and a study shows that about 80% of the buying decisions are made by the women internationally. The growth in Pakistan and in most of the developed countries is consumption driven. If women do jobs and has a significant share in the per capita income of the nation then it gives further impetus to higher consumption and hence causing more economic growth provided economy does not have loop holes in the determination of prices by the market forces as observed in Pakistan.

The higher education and then professional responsibilities can have very positive impact on the economy of Pakistan. It can help a great deal in controlling the rate of population which is much higher due to the fact that the role of the women is still considered as house wife by a large segment of population. However, Media has played a vital role in creating awareness and enhancing the role of women in the economy. A girl sitting in the rural areas can see where the women of Pakistan are now and can dream accordingly.

A survey from the leading universities of Pakistan shows that girls normally earn higher grades than boys. However, it is very disappointing that Pakistan is ranked as a country where female primary enrolment rate is one of the lowest in the region. The situation is rapidly changing across the world not only in developing but also developed countries. The rate of female enrolment rate is outpacing that of males. Pakistani Government also took initiatives to increase female enrolment rate in the country. In the rural areas, monetary benefits are given on monthly basis to those female students who maintain their attendance. It is definitely a right move but there is still a need to improve overall education system and facilitate female education up to the maximum possible extent.

There is so much room for growth in the area of women's role in the economy. We should develop ourselves up to the extent that brings day care centers concept to our country so that women can efficiently do their jobs without bothering about household problems and their children. It is also an established fact that an educated woman can be a good wife and mother and hence economic significance of her role becomes even more important.

Pakistan does not have very poor record of women's role in the top level jobs. A female prime minister ruled the country twice, the governor of the central bank of the country is a woman, parliament is full of female MNAs and MPAs now who also enjoy key ministries and are part of the cabinet committee. There are women who are CEO and executives of the leading asset management companies, banks and insurance companies. Brand management is being efficiently done by the women. Five years back, one could hardly visualize a women working in a brokerage house and mutual fund. The positions like Head of research, fund manager and equity dealer are being enjoyed by female workforce and their number is increasing with each passing day. It clearly shows that there is much more room left for the working women in different sectors of the economy. The growth in the economy will well be supported and dominated by an efficient female human resource and they will dominate on most of the jobs that have been traditionally associated with the men.

The fact of the matter is that about 50% of the workforce in Pakistan goes without contributing in the economy. Women work in agriculture fields in the rule areas. There are no facilities provided to them in this agricultural country. Women are also employed in the industry. However, industry has not advanced in Pakistan with the rate of growth in the economy. There are certain other industries where role of women in the labor force can be very critical and government should provide incentives in the growth of those industries. A framework needs to be developed that is based on the segregated analysis of the importance of women's role in Pakistan's economy and the steps that can enhance this role.