Token inclusion of women cannot bridge gender gap

Published: 00:00, Jun 02,2020


IN THE last decades, women’s participation in formal economy has significantly increased. From public administration to private sector, women have earned their place and excelled professionally. However, the stated increase in women’s participation has not been steady and constantly upward; it has occasionally decreased since the question of gender inclusivity has not always been systematically addressed to attain a sustainable outcome. A Bangladesh Bank report on gender equality in banking sector proves this point. The report observed that the presence of women in the mid-level managerial posts in private commercial banks, that constitute 50 per cent of the job in the sector, has dropped to 14.95 per cent in July–December 2019 from 15.51 per cent in earlier six months of 2019. The report, while noted an increase in women’s access to high level positions in the sector, shows that men are still occupying 91.09 per cent of the positions in this level. These numbers clearly indicate that the glass ceiling effect is still a reality for women in Bangladesh. Therefore, for the government to truly claim its success in achieving gender equality, it must address the structural barriers that prevent women from accessing managerial, administrative, expert positions.

In the industrial sector, particularly in the apparel sector that is known for creating job opportunity for a large number of women, similar gender disparity exists in creating access for women in mid-level positions. Around 85 per cent of the machines in the apparel industry are operated by women, but they hardly have scope to graduate to managerial posts as their male counterparts overwhelmingly dominate those positions. Researchers have observed such gender biases in the operations of public service and law enforcement agencies. In 2016, the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative published a report on women’s participation in Bangladesh Police that said recruitment of women into police force has increased significantly in the last decade, but still they experience different forms of gender discrimination including unequal access to promotion. More women are now part of the local government and public administration, but women in these positions have complained about the biases within the system as in their opinion are discounted. For women to take leadership role in the local level, as many women’s rights activists have insisted, it is not enough to recruit more women or create scope for women to participate in local level elections. In addition to their access to the local level governance system, they need an enabling environment to act effectively.

Therefore, it is time for the policy makers to abandon this strategy of token inclusion of women and make intervention to systematically address the male biases within the system that prevent women’s access to managerial positions. The report of Bangladesh Bank signals a worrying trend that women’s participation is not steadily increasing, a trend that must be arrested immediately by way of creating an enabling environment in which women can effectively perform their duty and professionally excel.

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