ISLAMABAD (WEB DESK)
On International Women’s Day 2023, three female officers from the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) shared their professional journeys and experiences. They also shed light on the status of women in the financial sector and SBP’s efforts to promote gender equality in the workplace. The dialogue highlighted several issues, including the low labor force participation rate of women in Pakistan, lack of access to financial services, and limited opportunities for women in entrepreneurship.
The conversation touched upon the “Banking on Equality” policy launched by SBP in September 2021. The policy has five pillars that aim to create a gender mainstreaming approach and promote policies of financial institutions favorable towards women. These pillars include gender diversity, product and service design, facilitation of women customers by appointing at least one ‘Women Champion’ in each branch, increasing female participation in the SME, Agriculture, and Microfinance sectors, and constituting a high-level policy forum on gender and finance. The policy has set a target of increasing the number of female staff in banks from 13.2% to 20% over the next three years.
State Bank is a mini Pakistan due to diversity in its workforce. Women from all over the country come to Karachi to join SBP. Ensuring that women from nook and corner of the country join SBP in a safe and secure manner is akin to giving complete protective solution to women and SBP has been quite successful in this regard. It has set an example not only for financial institutions but also for other businesses to emulate.
The participants emphasized that both demand and supply side factors perpetuate the gender gap in financial services, as women have historically not been given their due importance by financial institutions and face several societal and economic hurdles, as well. It is pertinent to mention that while 50% of Pakistan’s population comprises of women, their participation in labor force is only 13.7%. The percentage of women holding a bank account in the country stands at 39% of all adult population. As a result of these factors, there is huge gap in the financial sector as only 12% of bank’s staff comprises of women and 9% of women have access to SME financing.
SBP is taking steps to close the gender gap within the organization through various measures, such as providing a safe and secure working environment for women, organizing regular trainings on workplace harassment, and hiring a special female batch to increase the number of female staff.
Overall, the dialogue highlighted the need for more concerted efforts to promote gender equality in the financial sector and for banks to recognize women as a viable business segment. SBP’s efforts in this regard are aimed at creating a more inclusive and equitable workplace for women in Pakistan.