What Women Can Do To Succeed in the Pakistani Workplace

1.3This is the last blog on my Women@Work special. Over the past weeks I shared with you a number of insights on the state of gender diversity in corporate Pakistan; what female employees want from their employers, how Pakistani companies are living up to their expectations and how they can create more female friendly workplaces. In my last edition, I focus on what women can do to succeed in the Pakistani workplace. Can’t wait? Find out now by reading our full report or watch our 4 minute summary presentation.

As part of our Women @ Work study we also interviewed 30+ successful female managers and executives across all participating companies. Although each story is different there were some striking similarities. Some highlights:

Family Support is the Cornerstone of a Female Career
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Almost all women mention that support from their spouse and family is the key to their success. Spouses have to be progressive enough not only to support them in their endeavors but also to make a larger than normal contribution to the household and in some cases take over looking after the kids to facilitate their wives to travel and fulfill the sometimes required long hours.
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Mentors Help Navigate Tricky Waters
Every woman no matter how successful she has been has landed in situations that needed careful maneuvering. Mentors, either from within the company or sometimes from previous companies have been instrumental in managing these situations. All successful women interviewed could identify a person who they regard as a mentor and who have helped them through difficult career patches.

4.1Building a Network
Being able to build a strong network in the company of both female and male colleagues has paid successful women strong dividends. Networks are there to support, ask for advice, help to step in and create a larger support structure for a person to succeed. Successful female executives have stressed the importance of not letting the man run the “old boys’ network” but to go out and build a strong network in the company.

Focus on Delivering Results5.1
The most striking discovery was that all these successful women we interviewed condemned women who conformed to pre- conceived notions of a man’s view of a woman! Pakistani society cultivates strong opinions and biases towards working women and it is only your own performance that can change these views. Women should not be distracted by difficulties and should be willing to get out of their comfort zones and work in situations and jobs that make them uncomfortable and blow off everyone with their superb performance. Because at the end of the day it is only your performance that matters, not gender!

Women @ Work: What’s Next
Having completed the first ever gender diversity study in Pakistan you might be thinking ‘what next’?  We would love to hear your ideas as this is what we plan to do:

  1. We want to support companies in creating female friendly workplaces,
  2. Support women in maximizing their potential, and
  3. Understand drivers of gender diversity in more detail.

We do so because we believe that the world will become more tolerant and fair if more women have executive and leadership positions. But more importantly we do this because it just makes business sense! How so?? Read our full W@W report and find out! Or watch our 4 minute summary presentation.

– Paul Keijzer

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How To Become A Female Friendly Workplace

Today is the third blog of the Women @ Work series. We spoke about how Pakistan has a long way to go in driving gender diversity, what women are looking for and how Pakistani companies are scoring against these expectations. Today, it is all about how organizations can create a Female Friendly Workplace, a workplace that genuinely believes in the value of a more gender diverse workforce and is committed towards creating it. Our research, backed by findings from all over the world, has provided us with a clear 5 step recipe:

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Step 1: Visible and Genuine Executive Commitment
The first step is for the organization’s leadership team to be convinced that having a more gender-balanced organization is simply smart business. It is not about being politically correct, or morally doing the right thing. It gives better returns.

In doing so the executive team has to be able to focus on the long-term benefits and not be swayed by the ‘naysayers’ that focus on short term issues such as maternity leaves and all kind of other gender related performance biases. The stronger position it takes on this the more successful any gender diversity initiative will have.

The executive team has to build a business case for gender diversity, set themselves an audacious goal (like doubling the number of women in 3 years at management level), come up with a solid actionable plan with key performance indicators and then go public. The last element is important as public commitment increases personal commitment levels, as well as it creates a platform for change in the organization.

Step 2: Setting the Foundation
As soon as the executive team has made a public and genuine commitment to enhance the participation of women in their organization, the company has to set its foundations. This includes:

  • Creating policies on matters such as equal opportunities, reward and sexual harassment to solidify their commitment
  • Adjusting HR processes on hiring, development, promotions and succession planning to ensure at a minimum that gender bias is reduced and possibly that women candidates are at least included in people decisions
  • Creating a safe and female friend work place by providing facilities that ensure the safety of female staff at all times and enables them to perform to their ability
  • Helping male colleagues and specifically male line managers to become aware of specific gender related barriers and how to create a supportive and female friendly work place

Step 3: Enabling Female Employees to Combine Work and Home
Pakistani society has not progressed to a point where it is acceptable for a woman not to be a home maker. As a result she always has to be able to manage the pressures that come with managing both home and work. For companies in Pakistan to be successful in their gender diversity initiatives it is important for them to extend their support in enabling women to do so and not make it a reason for women to leave after they have gotten married or have had children.

Companies should as much as possible create flexible work arrangements and allow, if required, employees to work from home allowing them to fulfill personal commitments. This flexibility should not only be offered to women but to all employees alike as to not create a visible distinction between gender in the organisation.

This approach also applies for the matter of maternity. The more a company is able to support women during their maternity leave and upon their return to the workplace the more women will stay. Providing child care facilities will not only support women in focusing on their work and therefore be more productive upon their return it will also create a tremendous loyalty from working mothers and be a ‘attraction magnet for other working mums.

Step 4: Maximizing potential
With the foundations and enablers in place it is time to focus on providing high performing women with specific support and opportunities. This can be done in the form of:

  • Assigning executive mentors and coaches
  • Nominating women for specific training and development opportunities
  • Creating networking occasions (with other women) in the company
  • Omen talent review sessions in which the senior leadership team reviews and agrees development interventions for high performing female talent

Step 5: Influencing the Outside World
The final step is to come out in the open and use the traction and success that you have generated inside the company to influence other companies and society. This can be done through:

  • Sponsoring of gender diversity initiatives and events,
  • Specific female candidate outreach and sponsoring programs,
  • Taking ownership of specific female friendly initiatives such as:
    o– Supporting women to came back to work after a long maternity break
    o– Launching part-time work or job-sharing initiatives

By publically supporting gender diversity initiatives you will not only position yourselves as the employer of choice for female talent and positively influence your company’s reputation, but you will also be able to influence society and more specifically spouses whose support is essential for any talented woman to go out there and join the workforce.

However, be aware, you can only do this if your house is in order and females in your company are indeed recognizing you as a female friendly workplace. Based on our survey of 14 leading companies in Pakistan only two companies would be able to do that at the moment. Others still have some way to go in creating the environment where women unequivocally will recommend their company as a female friendly workplace.

Read more about our Women @ Work Study 2013 or watch the 4 minute summary presentation.

Next week is the last blog in our Women @ Work series. In this we will focus on how women can drive their own success in managing their career. Keep on sharing your views and comments!

– Paul Keijzer

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Only 2 Out Of 14 Leading Pakistani Companies Are A Female Friendly Workplace

BusinessPeopleSilhouetteWomanLast week we launched our Women @ Work Pakistan 2013 report. We had some great responses and would like to thank you for your interest and support in moving the gender diversity agenda in Pakistan forward.

One of the key objectives was to find out what women in Pakistan are expecting from their employers and how some of Pakistan’s leading companies do against these expectations. The answer was almost a Maslowian pyramid of needs, with more than 50% of all women indicating that their first and foremost concern was a safe work environment and a strict enforced sexual harassment policy. Followed by the ability to look after personal and work commitments and being given equal career and development opportunities. 

More so, than in many other societies around the world, Pakistani women are supposed to be the homemakers. No matter whether she works or not this expectation doesn’t change. Due to these expectations she is looking for an employer who can provide flexible work arrangements. This doesn’t only include the possibility to have flexible start and end timings, but also the opportunity to fulfill personal commitments during the day and maybe work in the evenings or work from home. 

So how are Pakistan’s leading companies doing? First of all, female employees of the different participating companies gave their own employer significantly different score cards with the difference between the best and the least female friendly workplace a whopping 35%. Only 2 out of the 14 leading companies in Pakistan can be described as female friendly workplaces. 

Guess which element was the largest difference between the best and the worst…guess again…No, it was commitment from their leadership team in driving gender diversity. The best company got an A+ with 87% of the female participants agreeing and the worst scoring company got an E grade with only 27% of their female employees stating their leadership visibly supports gender diversity. 

The good news was that all female employees indicated that they were happy with the safe and secure work environment their companies provided them. They were significantly less positive about their employers’ ability to provide flexible work arrangements (only 50% have some sort of flexible work arrangements, mostly flexible office hours). Another issue raised by female employees was the lack of support from companies to help women transition back to the workplace after their maternity leave. This did not only focus on the absence of physical facilities (i.e. child care facilities close to the office) but also on more subtle attitude shifts towards returning women from the line managers and employers.  

I will be back next week sharing some best practices and insights in what Pakistani companies can do to become a female friendly workplace. If you don’t want to wait till then you can read the Women @ Work Report 2013 and watch a 4 minute summary presentation

See you next week and do share what you have done this week to advance the role of female leaders in your organisation

– Paul Keijzer

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Women @ Work in Pakistan : A Long Way To Go!

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Seven months ago we started on our journey to find out where gender diversity stands in Pakistan. The objective of this study was to gain insight into factors that are important to working women, to identify the best practices in place to support gender diversity and also to capture statistics on female participation in leading companies in Pakistan. We had a fantastic response and over 1000 females from 14 corporations across Pakistan participated.

Our Women @ Work 2013 report is now available. We will share with you the highlights through my blog posts over the next four weeks, but if you don’t want to wait you can read it now by downloading the full report or watch the 4 minute Women @ Work Presentation by clicking here

Many executives both men and women ask me: Paul is it really necessary to focus on bringing in more women, is it not about who is best suited for the job.  And of course the answer is that you should not appoint women if they don’t have the right skill set, knowledge, experience and attitude to perform in a role. However, in a situation where both a male and female candidate are equally qualified, our research shows that women are 8% more energized to go the extra mile, 7% more likely to stay with the organization and 10% more female employees would recommend their organization as a place to work for their friends, than their male colleagues.

So where does corporate Pakistan stand on gender diversity? The picture currently is bleak at its best. According to the World Bank, Pakistan falls in the bottom ten countries with regard to women in the workforce. Our study showed that only 10% of the employees in participating companies are females and only 5% of them are in leadership roles as opposed to the 25% recommended by gender diversity advocates and governments alike. 

But not all hope is lost! With increasing realization of importance of gender diversity, multinationals have started putting pressure on their Pakistani operations to improve gender balance and are setting an example for local companies too. Progressive Pakistani companies are also taking the lead in creating opportunities for and facilitating women to progress in their careers. Companies just need to remember that hiring and nurturing the best is the only key to success!

Next week I will be sharing what women expect from their employers and how Pakistani companies are living up to their expectations.

You can download our Women @ Work 2013 report or watch our 4 minute presentation here.

– Paul Keijzer

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