ISLAMABAD: Despite the presence of a large number of women bureaucrats in federal as well as provincial bureaucracy, a few are serving on the important slots, Pakistan Today has learned.
Although the CSS exam remains equally open to men and women and bureaucracies continue to function in a larger environment, it is due to cultural and structural barriers that women bureaucrats have not been given important positions despite the fact that the government has allocated 10 per cent quota for them.
Overall, the status of women is not homogenous throughout the social and economic terrains of Pakistan. Although there is diversity on the status and role of women in Pakistan, it has been observed that in Pakistan, women’s rights to inheritance, education, employment, and political rights, are considerably lower compared to that of men.
Presently four officers Secretary Foreign Affairs Tehmina Janjua, Secretary Science and Technology Yasmin Masood, Secretary Human Rights Rabiya Javeri Agha and Rukhsana Yasmin are working as Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) chairpersons in total 42 federal ministries or institutions.
It is pertinent to mention here that although men and women compete equally for the allocated seats for the DMG, after they qualify for these positions, the officers are sent for training at the Civil Services Training Academy. On the completion of the training, the officers are supposed to be posted to district/field areas to administer those particular fields, women are not given this opportunity because they hardly ever get field jobs and are instead posted in the cities in the provincial offices.
Just in Punjab, two Pakistan Administrative Officers (PAS) officers are working as either commissioner or deputy commissioner and there is no female officer on the field job in other provinces.
A study conducted by Maryam Tanwir on the subject of “Gender Neutrality and the Pakistani Bureaucracy” depicts a bleak picture after interviewing the male and female bureaucrats as well as federal ministries.
Her study highlights that Pakistan’s bureaucracy is not gender neutral; the women in the bureaucracy are not a professional neutral but are sexualized by their gender. “They are not rewarded for their competence or expertise, but are stereotyped and allowed to have limited access to success in the bureaucracy”. The study further highlights that in addition, they have a glass ceiling, beyond which they cannot rise.
Women are excluded from the power equation. The journal stated that ministers transfer them on taking charge because they feel that women will not be ‘their’ man, and will not liaison in their shady or lucrative dealings. Their male colleagues ostracise them from all informal networks.
Moreover, the journal stated that the bureaucracy as a system and its access to power and authority remains restricted to men. The system is gendered as male although the formal implementation of gender equality is assumed, recruitment in the services remain on the principle of merit, but once inducted into the service, there are on introspection widespread differences on the perception and workings of the male and female bureaucrats.
The career trajectory of male and female bureaucrats remains distinct and separate. To understand the nuanced underpinnings of the Pakistani bureaucracy, the journal stated that cognisance of its social and cultural capital is imperative furthermore since, in organisations, the disseminated cultural images of gender are invented and reproduced when cognisance of cultural production is central for understanding gender construction. Due to these cultural images and prevalence of conventional gender norms, men monopolise the best postings and hence power. Women are ostracised from the informal networks and clubs and from positions of power. Women are viewed through the socio-cultural lens and the bureaucracy is unable to remain gender neutral.
The writer also points out that women and men have different social groups unless related by blood or marriage and it is not the norm for men and women to socialise and befriend. Men have their own groups and clubs, which exclude women, in personal and professional circles.
It is worth noting that in World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2013, Pakistan has been allotted the second-lowest ranking in the report’s overall measure of gender-based biases. Pakistan ranked 124 on women’s health and survival, 129 on women’s educational attainment and 135 with respect to equal economic participation and opportunity.