Gender and management : factors affecting career advancement of women in the federal civil service of Pakistan
Organisations today operate under extreme pressures to be effecient and productive to meet the challenges of globalisation. The concern for best utilisation of available human resources is at the core of the movement for effeciency and productivity. There is a growing realisation that the quality of top managers, irrespective of gender, is critical to the success and survival of organisations. This has made the advancement of women managers to the top managerial hierarchy an organisational imperative rather than merely an equity issue. Recognising this need, career advancement of women managers, in recent years, has emerged as an important area of research in the field of gender and management. A number of studies have been conducted to examine the factors affecting women's advancement in management careers. Although these studies provide a useful insight into the phenomenon of scarcity of women in top management, they are parochial in nature and are limited in focus. These studies are largely based on the experiences of women managers in the western and industrialised countries and focus only on the personal and organisational factors overlooking the broader societal context. Hence, recently, the need for incorporating systemic dimension into theoretical discourse as well as empirical research on managerial advancement of women has been recognised to explore this phenomenon across cultures. This study develops a gender-organisation-system model of managerial advancement to study the factors affecting career advancement of women. The model is applied to the federal civil service of Pakistan, the largest single employer of women in a non-western, developing and Islamic country. The data are collected using triangulation of methods, self-administered questionnaire, face-to-face interviews and documentation. A sample of 300 civil servants was randomly selected for the study. The findings are based on the analysis of the results of 138 questionnaires received and 30 interviews and examination of the status of women in Pakistani society and the civil service through documentation. The study reveals an inventory of personal, organisational and systemic factors that may facilitate or impede advancement of women civil servants in Pakistan. At the personal level, dual commitment to family and career poses a great dilemma to women civil servants. While parental encouragement, spouse's support, socioeconomic background and educational achievements facilitate women civil servants, the potential barriers to their career advancement are spouse career, time away from family and difficulty in relocation. At the organisational level, women are denied equal career opportunities through indirect and subtle forms of discriminatory practices including gender streaming, work segregation, limited opportunities of training, mentoring and networking. These covert forms of discrimination often go unnoticed and are perpetuated due to a number of organisational factors such as gender-biased selection processes, regional and military quotas, absence of lateral entry, lack of women friendly policies and absence of women from important decision making bodies. The gender and organisational factors affecting career advancement of women civil servants are the mirror images of the role and status of women in Pakistani society. The cultural norms, values, and perceptions about the role of women in society, low level of gender development and gender empowerment, and absence of legal institutional framework for addressing issues of sex discrimination at work are the major systemic factors that adversely affect women's advancement in the civil service hierarchy. The study reveals similarities as well as differences between women administrators in Pakistan and western and non-western countries. Pakistani women administrators like women managers in the other countries are not in any sense less than their counterparts in terms of career commitment, managerial ability and self-confidence. They face barriers that arise from two major forces counteracting their career aspirations, work-family conflict and institutionalised discrimination. However these constraints in Pakistan are not only different in nature and forms but are more intense due to rigid sex-role demarcation and strong family orientation compared with western and industrialised countries. Hence, coping strategies at personal, organisational and systemic levels to deal with these pressures are also different. The study makes several policy recommendations to facilitate women aspiring for managerial careers in general and women civil servants in particular, which includes institutionalised child care, anti-discrimination legislation, flexible working practices, review of recruitment, selection and promotion system, affirmative action, a balanced representation of women in decisionary bodies and gender sensitivity training. Though traditional societal values are in conflict with women's work outside the private sphere, these recommendations if adopted may bring a positive change towards gender equality in managerial careers in Pakistan including the civil service.