Pakistan has made progress in boosting women’s education levels over the past several years—yet less than 8 percent of the country’s workforce are women. Closing that gap will represent a huge economic opportunity for our country.
I’m excited that the private sector is taking steps to address the problem. At the Pakistan Stock Exchange on International Women’s Day, it was inspiring to see 15 Pakistani women business leaders participate in Ring the Bell for Gender Equality event. On that day, several organizations also made commitments to increase the numbers of women across all levels of their businesses, including the corporate boards.
For the Pakistan Business Council, it was important to co-host this event. As a business advocacy forum comprising the country’s largest businesses—including multinationals—we have significant investment in Pakistan. Our members’ turnover represents about 11 percent of Pakistan’s GDP and they contribute 25 percent of the taxes and exports. They employ more than 3 million people and the percentage of women in their workforce is higher than the average in Pakistan.
We know that teams in companies that comprise a good mix of men and women perform better and make better decisions at the top of the firm. That’s why the Pakistan Business Council launched an initiative to engage with businesses to highlight the benefits of recruiting and retaining women. We also recently introduced the Employer for Gender Balance Award, a first in Pakistan, to further motivate companies to step up gender diversity efforts and achieve better business outcomes.
The benefits of gender diversity do not only accrue to companies. In Pakistan, only a quarter of women work, compared with over 80 percent of men. If women and men participated equally in the workforce, Pakistan’s economy—which is expanding at just under 6 percent annually—could grow by 30 percent.
In our efforts to enhance women’s employment in Pakistan, we are also privileged to have partnered with International Finance Corporation, a member of the World Bank Group. We recently collaborated with IFC on five case studies to highlight how companies can reap business benefits by boosting diversity.
Pakistan Business Council wants to see more companies implement women-friendly workplace policies, report to shareholders on diversity practices, disclose gender metrics, and increase the number of women in senior leadership. Only then will we start to see real change, which will be good for Pakistan’s businesses and good for women.