Spotlight on Working Women in the Region: The Smart Money Is On Hiring Women
By Sarah Peck, Executive Director of the US-Pakistan Women’s Council
“If we hire a woman, she will just leave the company when she gets married or has a child.”
“We want to hire women, but we can’t find women with the right qualifications.”
“We can’t hire women because our men will just harass them.”
Employers in Pakistan have cited these reasons to me to explain why they don’t recruit women. But other Pakistani employers say these reasons just don’t add up. These employers (which include both local and multinational companies) go the extra mile to recruit women employees because it helps them make money.
Going the extra mile means implementing workplace accommodations that make it possible for women to juggle family obligations with work responsibilities. For example, some employers provide on-site child care because female employees with valuable experience can continue to work after they have a child. This makes sense because it costs less to provide the child care than to recruit and train a replacement.
But why hire a woman rather than a man in the first place, since she is likely to have children? As one company explained, if a woman finds a job with the benefits she needs, she will stay at her job longer than a male employee, who is more likely to leave for higher pay. And that loyalty provides significant savings on recruitment costs and promotes quality and efficiency.
Going the extra mile means setting hiring targets for female employees. One company in Pakistan requires female employees in certain mission critical departments, such as marketing. And the only way to recruit enough qualified women to meet the target, they explained, is to keep searching until qualified female candidates are found, even if qualified male candidates have already been identified. For example, Unilever hires the woman if possible, to promote gender parity.
Pepsi says there is a clear business case for such a policy, and has impressive results recruiting women. In fact, many Pakistani companies told me their female employees often out-perform the men (even in non-traditional roles such as pharmaceutical sales) and bring unique skills to the company (such as insights on how to market to women) that positively impact the company’s bottom line.
The extra mile also means making the workplace safe for women. Harassment remains a challenge throughout the MENA region and South Asia. In Pakistan, new laws criminalize harassment and require companies to take steps to prevent it. Companies can self-certify compliance with the law.
One company explained they provide sensitivity training to their male employees, making it possible for them to work alongside women. And many companies offer transportation for female employees so they can avoid the harassment that is prevalent on public transportation. These efforts make it possible for women to leave the safety of their homes to go to work.
Allowing women to work in these countries would not just improve the lives of women (and the bank accounts of their employers), it would increase the competitiveness of these countries and promote stability and prosperity throughout the region. And what company doesn’t want that?
Editor’s Note: Sarah Peck is the Executive Director of the US-Pakistan Women’s Council and a judge for the Women Powering Work: Innovations for Economic Equality in MENA competition hosted by Ashoka Changemakers and General Electric. Follow #womenWork on Twitter to receive the latest on innovation trends and competition news.
If your company has done work to recruit and retain female employees, the US-Pakistan Women’s Council would like to feature your best practice will appear on the its Facebook page. Email: WomensCouncil@american.edu.