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The Dual Glass Ceiling

Overcoming gender and parental biases in tech and marketing.
Published 12 May, 2024 08:17pm

This Mother’s Day, it is pertinent to discuss the challenges that women in the corporate sector in Pakistan face, which include those marked by pervasive gender and parental biases. These biases create dual barriers in their careers – a general glass ceiling and a specific one for mothers. This complex dynamic necessitates a closer look at how these biases occur and what is being done to overcome them.

Understanding the different biases:

Gender Bias
In Pakistan’s tech and marketing fields, in particular, gender bias can sideline even the most qualified women. It often manifests as doubts about women’s technical skills or leadership potential, impacting their access to opportunities for professional growth like training, promotions and leadership roles.

Parental Bias
The biases extend when women become mothers. The common misconception that mothers have divided loyalties between work and home leads to fewer career advancement opportunities, reduced responsibilities, and often exclusion from projects requiring flexible timing or travel, thereby impacting their professional visibility and growth prospects.

Corporate Response and Legal Framework
Recognising these issues, the corporate sector, guided by laws such as the Protection Against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act and requirements for childcare facilities, has started to reform. These laws not only provide a basis for more equitable treatment but also mandate facilities that help mothers maintain their career trajectories.

Innovative Corporate Practices
Companies like Systems Limited and Telenor Pakistan are pioneers in this space. They have adopted flexible working hours, remote work options, and policies for the transparent and equitable treatment of all employees, ensuring that mothers have equal leadership and growth opportunities.

Careem has made significant strides in promoting gender diversity within its workforce. Careem ensures equitable hiring practices and has developed programmes specifically aimed at supporting and advancing women in technology and leadership roles. Their policies are designed to remove bias from recruitment processes, ensuring that promotions and career progressions are based solely on merit.

Nest I/O, a tech incubator in Karachi, is dedicated to nurturing tech talent with a strong focus on supporting women entrepreneurs by providing essential training, mentorship, and networking opportunities that empower them in tech, addressing both skill enhancement and professional growth barriers.

Individual and Community Efforts
On the ground, women in tech and marketing are bolstering these efforts by creating and participating in networks that provide support and advocacy. Groups like WomenInTechPK and forums supported by the Digital Rights Foundation serve as crucial platforms for raising awareness through social media by sharing resources, providing mentorship and discussing strategies to overcome workplace biases.

The way forward:

To truly shatter these dual glass ceilings, tech and marketing firms in Pakistan can adopt several focused strategies.

Regular Bias Training
Conduct workshops and training sessions for all employees to address unconscious biases, focusing on understanding the specific challenges faced by mothers.

Transparent Career Pathways
Clearly define and communicate advancement pathways and ensure they are equally accessible to women, with promotion criteria based strictly on merit.

Community and Mentorship Programmes
Establish mentorship programmes that connect women with leaders in the field so they can receive guidance, support and advocacy from them.

Data Monitoring
Implement and monitor diversity metrics rigorously to ensure policies that lead to tangible outcomes in terms of gender equity.

Celebrating Success Stories
Celebrating Success Stories: Publicly acknowledge and celebrate the achievements of women, especially those balancing motherhood and careers, to inspire others and reinforce the value of diversity.

Ultimately, the drive towards shattering the dual glass ceilings in Pakistan requires persistent efforts from both the corporate sector and regulatory bodies. By implementing policies that promote gender diversity, support parental roles and ensure their effective implementation, we can create an environment where professional growth is determined by talent and performance rather than gender or parental status.

Fauzia Kerai Khan is CEO, I&B Consulting, Assessing, Learning, Consulting.