Fariha is heading towards the airport with her two years old daughter. Her daughter, Liana is very happy because they are going to Australia to stay with her father. Fariha is also happy but deep inside a part of her is not happy. She had to leave her job to settle in Australia with her husband. After graduating from the University of Dhaka with a major in Finance, she got her dream job in one of the leading MNC’s in Bangladesh, Unilever Ltd. Four months after her joining, she got married. She was very passionate about her job. After one year of her marriage, her husband went to do a Ph.D. in Australia. Everything was perfect in the beginning but as days passed her husband started pressurizing her to come to Australia and settle there. And just like most other girls, Fariha had to choose between career and personal life. Her husband even threatened her to get a divorce if she did not come to Australia. Being helpless, she decided to go to her husband in Australia leaving her job behind.
This is a common scenario for most of the working women in our country. Though we claim that we are empowering our women with proper education, we are failing to give them the proper environment to apply their knowledge and excel in their careers. The development of a society is not possible until all people in that society are allowed to work for it. Our country, Bangladesh has a population of 162.7 million among which 81.4 million is women which accounts for almost 50.03% of the total population. The rate of primary education among girl students is high compared to boys. However, as the education level goes up, access to education becomes more and more difficult for women. In our country, only 49.2% of our women receive secondary education and this rate becomes even narrower in higher secondary and tertiary levels. It is obvious that if our women do not get education they will not even be aware of their rights and responsibilities let alone working in the top ladders of the companies. But lack of education is not the sole reason for women lagging in leadership there are many more reasons that are on work. All these things make leadership more of like a luxury to women rather than a necessity.
Current Education Scenario among Women of Bangladesh
Because of the various policies taken by the current government including Primary Education Stipend Program(PESP), school meal program, free education materials, etc., the rate of women receiving primary education has increased a lot throughout recent years but still because of dogmatic social beliefs and lack of educational reforms many girls drop out of school after primary level. According to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics’ report titled “Gender Statistics of Bangladesh 2018”, the net enrolment rate of girls in primary education, secondary education, higher secondary education, and tertiary education was 97.7%, 48.9%, 21.9% and respectively. It is evident from the data that, as girls move up the education hierarchy, more and more of them are excluded from the education system.
Participation of Women in Job Sector
Women have been participating more in the job force throughout the recent decade, though the rate has increased at a very slow pace. Women are getting more involved in the job market due to the increased access to higher education. The women’s employment rate was 26.96% in 2000, which increased to 35.86% in 2017. But women’s employment rate is still much less compared to that of men in our country. Besides, the women’s employment rate in our country is much less than that of our neighboring countries like India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Bhutan, Nepal, China, etc. In 2019, the female employment rate for Bangladesh was 36.26% whereas the rate in Nepal, China, Myanmar, and Bhutan was 82.8%, 60.45%, 47.50%, and 58.86% respectively. The number of educated unemployed women is also higher in comparison to men in Bangladesh. As reported in the Gender Statistics of Bangladesh 2018, women’s unemployment rate was 6.7% in the year 2016-17 while the unemployment rate of men was 3.1%. If we project women’s participation according to different sectors, we have 40.6% of our women in the agricultural sector, 20.4% in the industrial sector, and 39% in the service sector.
Participation of Women in Top Level Management
Even if some women make it to their dream job, few go to the highest corporate ladder. Though our women get education, most of them are not highly educated. As a result, they are seen as less competent for the decision-making positions at the office than men are. Since the number of women in the executive position is not so many, fewer women find any mentor or role model in the workplace they can relate to and take advice and guidance from. As a result, they feel isolated when they move up the ranks. Some female executives also share their experience of isolation and embarrassment when they enter a meeting room full of men and only one or two women. Rigid office environment can also be held responsible for less participation of women at the executive level. Though our world has changed dramatically where women are now becoming more and more active in outdoor activities, our office environments are still stuck in the 1970s and designed only for working men. As child-rearing activities are sometimes to be handled solely by mothers, women find it very difficult to maintain both home and work responsibilities in this kind of inflexible work environment.
Reasons for Women’s Quitting Jobs
Many fresh and promising female university graduates enter the job market with commitment to pursue their job role but after some time because of the inability to strike a balance between career and family responsibilities they remain with no option other than leaving their job. This is just one of the social factors that keep women from pursuing their careers. Many other things work as barriers in the process of a smooth journey for women in the labor force. Lack of safety in the workplace, lack of transportation facility, lack of childcare facilities, early marriage, technological upgradation, societal mindset, and many more other reasons account for women lagging in the workforce. Wage discrimination is another obstacle that comes in the way of women. In many sectors, women are paid less than their male co-workers, though women work no less than their male colleagues and even sometimes they work harder.
How to Ensure Participation of Women
As a developing country, Bangladesh has huge potential in terms of woman leadership. Our country has got international recognition and many worth mentioning awards for improving women empowerment. But still, many issues have to be addressed to ensure the maximum participation of women in our society. There should be training programs for our uneducated female members so that they can become financially independent by applying what they learned from the training. Micro credits can be made easily available to our small female entrepreneurs. Reformation of social beliefs towards women is also mandatory to ensure equal participation of our women. In office, women should be given a supportive environment where they feel they belong to, by giving them sufficient development opportunities. Workplaces should introduce flexible working arrangements so that women do not have to struggle to maintain both work and family responsibilities. Every women is a leader in herself irrespective of whether she is giving lead to a company or a family. If family is thought of like a social institution, we’ll be surprised to know how a woman manages everything in her house and how much dedication and effort she puts into getting things done on time. From bringing up children to looking after personal finance, women are no less expert on multitasking. If they could handle a family so tactfully, they can even run a corporation if given that opportunity. If we can ensure the environment where our women are treated as a boon rather than a burden and given the every opportunity to flourish, they will evolve becoming more economically, politically, and socially independent.