Ring the Bell Ceremony for Gender Equality 2019
The International Women’s Day (IWD), which started as a movement for demands for basic women rights such as equal pay and voting rights in the early 1900s, now strives on bigger agendas such as equal gender representation across the board, and boardrooms. Although the dynamics have evolved, International Women’s Day is a celebration of the extraordinary achievements of women across the world which further highlights the urgency of the global support for women.
In keeping with tradition, the Pakistan Stock Exchange held the Ring the Bell Ceremony on March 8, 2019. The Ring the Bell Ceremony which is held every year since the past five years across Stock Exchanges all over the world, aims to raise awareness on creating gender balance in the business leadership and management. The Ring the Bell Ceremony at PSX was attended by women leaders from various corporate organizations working as board members or entrepreneurs. Mr. Ehsan Malik, CEO The Pakistan Business Council attended the event along with Chairman SECP Mr. Farrukh Sabzwari, PSX Chairman Salman S Mehdi and IFC Principal Country Officer Shabana Khawar. Holding the ceremony at Stock Exchanges over the world signifies and a message in itself as it draws special attention to the inclusion of women in the private sector in order to achieve their economic empowerment.
As with other Ring the Bell Ceremonies worldwide, the event at PSX was hosted by The Pakistan Business Council, Women on Boards Pakistan, IFC, and the PSX. The IFC has set a very high benchmark in financially empowering women by assisting them globally and now it continues to follow suit in Pakistan. The IFC, along with the PBC, strives to educate employers and business through webinars, case studies and seminars since women only constitute 24-26% of the total labor force in Pakistan.
The International Women’s Day addresses the Goal # 5 of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) which aims to empower women and girls across the world. As per the UN, 49 countries currently have no laws which protect women against domestic abuse. Research shows that discrimination against women has diminished but there is a long struggle ahead to correct the structural issues which would resolve the gender parity between men and women.
Attendees at the Ring the Bell Ceremony at PSX shared key insights into the issue of women empowerment in Pakistan, especially with respect to their integration and progression in workplaces. It was repeatedly highlighted that although, it may not be economically viable, it is essential for employers to have a futuristic approach when it comes to tapping into the invaluable talent that women of Pakistan have to offer. In order to achieve this, Pakistan would have to come up to speed with developed economies in every way to form a more conducive work environment.
Following the panel discussions, multiple ways of achieving these goals were brought forward. These included providing safe transportation facilities, having a day-care policy, paternity leaves of up two months for new mothers and hotel facilities which are more than adequate when travelling to another location. Safe and convenient transportation was pointed as a key factor to encourage female participation as organizations providing this service have more women working for them. Another major barrier for women re-entering the workforce is that employers are very reluctant to hire women back after their paternity leaves.
Although women have proven to bring diversity to decision-making and improved financial performance in organizations, only 25.12% of the women in Pakistan are economically active as of 2018, according to a World Bank report. In order to better tackle the gender inequality, the Corporate Governance Code under the Companies Act of 2017 implemented on January 1, 2018 obligates all public listed companies to induct at least one woman director to be on board. Legislations such as these would better implement gender equality as a norm within organizations across all tiers.
Abdullah Khilji is recent graduate in Economics from the Institute of Business Administration Karachi. With interests in Public Policy and Development, he is currently working as a Policy Development Trainee at the Centre of Excellence in Responsible Business at PBC.