An Equal World is an Enabled WorldMuhammad Shahid
‘Inequalities’ based on income, gender, age, disability, sexual-orientation, race, class, ethnicity and religion continue to persist across the world. The George Floyd protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, after a white police officer knelt on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes during an arrest, quickly became a global movement. #blacklivesmatter, today is an international human rights movement. It is proof that inequality exists at large and must not ignored.
‘Equality’ ensures everyone has an equal opportunity, and is not treated differently or discriminated against because of their characteristics or gender. For example, women still earn less than men do, people from minority ethnic groups or the differently-abled, still do less well in terms of education and securing jobs than people from other groups.
The United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were put in place to transform the world by 2030. Goal 5 of the SDGs is ‘Gender Equality’. This year, like most years in recent times, everyone marked Women’s Day in March. Even the worldwide COVID-19 scare did not damper the spirits of activists who gathered at the UN office in New York to show support for signing of the Political Declaration by UN’s member states agreeing to fully implement the Beijing Declaration on gender equality, addressing gaps that hold women back. There was similar enthusiasm for the “Aurat March” all across Pakistan.
Ironically, this year’s Women’s Day theme focused on “equality”. Workplace gender equality is attained when employees are able to achieve same benefits, rewards, opportunities regardless of their gender.
Women account for half of the world’s working age population. So, it makes economic sense to tap talent readily available in the market. Secondly, the role of women in society has been evolving with time as more women have opted for higher degrees, and finding ways to balance work with family commitments. There is a plethora of information available that confirms that greater gender equality and diversity at the workplace is associated with:
- Improved productivity and growth
- Enhanced organizational and financial performance
- Positive image of the organization – seen as a fair employer
Despite this, gender inequality and discrimination persists in societies and this is reflected in workplaces. According to the UNDP, women comprise over half of Pakistan’s population, yet only 22.7 percent are part of the labour force. Even those who are part of the labour force are largely in the informal sector, receiving low pay with few legal protections.
Pakistan Cables’ journey into Gender Equality is recent too. However, in the past five years we have recorded double-digit growth in terms of hiring women across different functions within the company. SECP requires at least one Director on the Board of public listed companies; whereas Pakistan Cables appointed its first female Director in 2013, well ahead of it being declared a mandatory requirement by the SECP. In fact, on more than one occasion our Board has comprised of two female Directors because we fully realize that diversity adds considerable value at the Board and organisational level and are working hard towards making further strides in improving our gender balance.
Companies that embrace gender diversity in the workplace must make internal adjustments in order to make the environment conducive for females. Some organizational adjustments that we have embarked upon in order to make Pakistan Cables’ working environment female friendly include:
– Awareness sessions to assist in sensitization of the existing team
– Clear policies that include a gender perspective and address issues such as harassment
– Appropriate support facilities, where needed
– Engagement activities to promote team work and understand different work styles
– Providing equal opportunities for learning and growth
– Hiring females across different career levels
We regularly engage with our female team members for their feedback and look to address areas identified on an ongoing basis.
Difference between Diversity & Equality
So while ‘equality’ calls for equal opportunities for all, ‘diversity’ is about taking account of the differences between people and groups of people, and placing a positive value on those differences. Although much of the focus in Diversity & Inclusion has so far been on gender and race, there is much to be gained in supporting other minority groups such as the differently abled. According to a report issued jointly by the WHO and the World Bank, more than a billion people, or 15% of the global population, are estimated to live with some form of disability.
In an effort to provide equal learning and development opportunities for the differently abled children, Pakistan Cables, as part of its CSR program marked the inauguration of NOWPDP’s The Inclusion Academy in Karachi. The Inclusion Academy is the first of its kind school-project that aims to target differently-abled children, that hail from the under privileged segment of the society. Prior to this, Pakistan Cables supported a training centre for the differently abled set up by the hard working team at the NOWPDP. Our motivation being to empower a marginalized segment of society.
Personally, I think only one’s abilities, talent and determination, not their gender, race, ethnicity, etc. play a key role in creating value. That is why both men and women, people of various ethnicities and abilities, should share an equal part of the value chain. By adopting more gender-neutral, pro-diversity and inclusive practices in our businesses, we send a strong message to society that no one should be left behind. As responsible corporate citizens, we should be looking to develop our workforce while having a positive influence on society with our actions.