KARACHI: Despite adequate experience, a large proportion of women in the country’s information technology workforce do not make it to senior-level positions as 24% abandon their jobs in the middle of their careers, said a research by Pakistan Software Houses Association (P@SHA).
Equal opportunities, flexible work hours, transportation and day care facilities could change the equation, it proposed.
“Women represent 14% of Pakistan’s IT workforce that’s on a par with the national average of the proportion of women in the overall labour force,” P@SHA member Nosheen Ishtiaq said at the launch of the research publication – Pakistani Women in Technology – here on Monday.
The study covered 124 women and 49 companies – IT companies and IT departments of non-IT companies – from seven cities of the country. It focused on the participation levels of women in the IT industry as employees, managers and contributors, and questioned women if the HR policies and benefits offered by their employers impacted their retention.
The study showed despite having years of experience, a large proportion of women continued to persist in mid-level roles with only a fraction transitioning to senior management positions.
Of the women surveyed, 49% were found to be in the middle of their career with 4 to 7 years of work experience, Ishtiaq said, but the percentage remains around the same for women who have 8 to 15 years of experience. It shows they hit a glass ceiling or get stuck at the mid-career level in their IT careers, she said.
Barely 13% of the women polled had management roles. By contrast, 41% women who have at least 4 to 15 years of work experience were behind them, indicating the number of women progressing to senior level is relatively lower.
The study also found that fewer than 3% of the overall female IT workforce had more than 15 years of experience.
The findings of the two-and-a-half-month study also showed only around 2% women in IT companies own company shares while majority of companies have no female employees who own their stocks.
Another major finding of the study and one of the main reasons why majority of women do not make it to senior-level positions was the drop-out rate.
According to the International Federation of University Women, women face a number of challenges throughout key life moments which threaten their professional careers such as marriage and motherhood, the report said. The result is that a significant number of women leave their career at vulnerable stages of life.
There is a 24% drop between women with 4 to 7 years of experience and those with 8 to 15 years of experience, an indication of the “leaky pipeline” effect that women often face while pursuing careers, Ishtiaq said.
While talking about reasons behind the drop-out, Ishtiaq said a large number of women faced issues regarding their work environment and timing. Women report inflexibility in work hours and insensitivity towards their family commitments from their management, it said.
Women also face gender bias when it comes to management decisions regarding trainings and their general work environment, she added.
Of the companies polled, 29% do not offer maternity leave to women, Ishtiaq said. Of the 71% that offer maternity leave, only 22% offer day care facility, she added.
For companies offering more than five benefits, she said, participation and retention rate was higher.
Speaking on the occasion, P@SHA Chairman Nadeem Elahi briefed the media about the progress of IT sector. The IT sector’s turnover has reached $2.8 billion, 1.6% of the GDP. If the government makes good policies to support the industry, the figure could be pushed to $10 billion, he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 15th, 2012.