The position of women in our society is characterized by multiple roles. A woman is a mother, wife, sister, and daughter; may be all at the same time. In some cases women are working persons as well. What do men – fathers, brothers, husband or other male family members — think about women working away from home? In our society, women’s options to pursue a career or stay home largely rest with the male members who generally decide about it under the influences like particular family situations, family and social background and the financial needs.
Women are seen working in corporate Pakistan largely doing jobs which have traditionally been labelled as women’s work like clerical, secretarial, catering, teaching, public relations and front desk, medical practitioners and other health related jobs, labourers in production units and to some extent in human resources and marketing fields, notwithstanding exception that can be found in almost any discipline; far and few.
In many cases women work more than their men do. Since time immemorial, women have great responsibility for unpaid and invisible physical work as well: bearing and rearing children, housework — there is a lot to be done at home — and caring for the sick and elderly and rural women working with men in agricultural fields and animal husbandry.
Broad scouting reveals this: Men want to come back home from work to waiting women. Men feel ‘threatened’ by women in leadership roles at workplace. They find problems in finding a way to balance the needs of housework with the demands of activities of working women.
Our society so far does not offer equal opportunities in terms of reconciliation of work and life for women. Dr. Agha Haroon, an educationist says, “In traditional society like ours, male members tell their female wards to work or what to do instead of asking them if they want to or what they want to do? Earlier in life even the subjects for the girl students are chosen by parents as per their perceptions rather than seeing the aptitudes of female students. Which is why one finds women interested, for example, in Information Technology doing courses in Home Economics and that is one of the reasons that some women do not excel in careers if and when they join work?”
On the other hand, “We do not find enough employable females,” says Asad Raza, Manager Human Resources in an equal opportunity multinational service organization, “and even those who are employed with us are seen under the guardianship of their fathers, brothers and husbands or some other male family member.”
Generally, equality for women is considered as important area of human resource development and is strongly recommended at the workplace, but only in theory. Continuously tightening economic compulsions today seem to set clear limits for male members to decide for women to work or stay home. The tilt having been towards working and earning some additional income. Waqar Mehdi says, “My wife works because my income is not enough to make the ends meet. My aged mother has to look after our two years old baby when I and my wife are away and I have to pick and drop her to and from work every day. We have been thinking that she should leave the job and stay home to look after the baby for some time. Only she is waiting for her promotion that is due any moment. She will leave the moment she gets the higher grade.”
Some time women are allowed to work for the ‘waiting period’ – after completion of their education and before they are married off. “My daughter graduated from University of the Punjab and is working in a bank now. It is good job with potential for growth. But will she be able to continue her job after marriage depends upon her husband,” says Karim Dad.
“Our baho betian (wives and daughters) do not work,” seems the attitude of a major segment of our society. Proponents of this attitude think that work is only for the monitory benefits and has nothing to do with personal fulfilment or enrichment in life. Some even find it hard to allow their female children in higher educations.
Decision to work as per one’s own liking should be a personal preference. Every one should be entitled to work not only for monitory rewards but also for tapping personal potential in whatever one is good at. Ideally, there should be no gender or other barriers. In the absence of any policy for human resource development at national level, corporate sector should open up to women workforce and provide more women friendly opportunities. Male members should also allow their wards to join the workforce, customs, traditions, and unproven myths notwithstanding.