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Careers4colorAccording to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics’ Employment Trends Report 2011, female participation in the workforce has increased from 16.3% to 24.4% in the last decade. Yet, while proving to be strong contributors to economic growth, working women still struggle with a number of workplace issues that hamper their professional aspirations.

Here are some issues the average Pakistani female has to contend with in the workplace:

Working late: Under Pakistan’s Labour Laws if an employer does not arrange transport, working hours must be between 6 am and 7 pm. However, in private organisations where ‘late sittings’ are the norm, women, especially working mothers, are discriminated against because of their inability to conform. Leaving ‘early’ is even misconstrued as a lack of ambition in women.

Maternity leave: Under the Maternity Benefits Ordinance (1958), working mothers are entitled to 12 weeks maternity leave with full pay. Employers cannot terminate women during their maternity leave, however, some choose to use this as an excuse to derail career growth: being asked to cut short their leave, having duties reassigned or being passed over for a promotion due to an inability to cope with the immediate workload are common concerns.

Sexual harassment: The Protection Against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act (2010) requires organisations to set up investigative committees in case of a sexual harassment complaint. However, most employees are not aware of this critical information. Out of fear of the lasting stigma, HR departments will deter women from filing a complaint or reassign the case endlessly.

Equal wage and opportunities: An informal economy operates out of homes in professions such as shoe-making, embroidery, stitching, artificial jewellery, garments, pottery, etc. These home-based workers, 65% of whom are women, are not legally recognised as workers and have no social security or minimum wage benefits. Without the ratification of the ILO Convention 177 Act, which recognises home based workers as legitimate employees, the exploitation of the labour force continues.

– Sadya Siddiqui
The writer is an HR and branding consultant and can be contacted via LinkedIn.

First published in the Careers Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on March 3, 2013.