Your timeline is all about International Women’s Day today (March 8). Posts and stories that highlight the few and far between Pakistani women considered to be high achievers. Or those that focus on pledges taken to challenge diversity ratios in workplaces.
But what will happen tomorrow – on March 9? Pretty much what happens on the remaining 364 days of the year. Social pressures will continue to affect women about whether they should choose family or work; women will be questioned about whether or not they want to get married or have children during their job interviews; they will face pressures from the patriarchs of their families who will insist that a wife, daughter or sister should not work late. It will be business as usual and there will be nothing unusual about it.
How about we set out to change not only our profile pictures but acknowledge what is wrong with the following picture?
I was once the only woman in a bank’s C-suite boardroom. The whole floor was dedicated to the president of the bank. The only restroom available on this expensively decorated floor was marked with a male sign. A little design problem or a bigger statement on the bank’s culture? Apparently, no woman was expected to roam these corridors of power, hence why make a restroom for the invisible gender? That was an epiphany for me – I might have made it to the president’s boardroom and got a seat at the table, but I was not expected to stay there long enough to use the facilities.
An important realisation that emerged during the lockdown was that women were expected to take care of their homes and work simultaneously while working from home. As day care centres and schools were shut, mums had to be teachers, babysitters and full-time employees. As the BBC viral video showed us, the father had the option of shutting the door to his home office while it was left to his wife to take the children out of the sight of his zoom callers.
Most of the 24% of women in Pakistan who work do not have the options of viable childcare facilities at their offices or the understanding from their mangers or colleagues that having and prioritising their family does not mean that they are not doing their jobs properly.
After 20 years of being a working woman I have come to only one conclusion: it is the men in our lives who will ensure that we continue to work. The dads who will not resort to scolding their daughters for working late, the husbands who will not make a big deal for taking care of their children, the brothers who will stand by their sisters and the sons who will believe in empowered mothers. Being pro women does not mean that you are anti-men and if we want to improve the ratio of working women in Pakistan, then we all need to work with women – not against them.
*Atiya Zaidi is Managing Director/Executive Creative Director, BBDO Pakistan & Co-founder, Shero Space, a career coaching and mentoring company. firstname.lastname@example.org.
The views in this article are her own and don’t reflect the views of any organisation.*