Prospects for equal employment opportunity for women in Pakistani organisations: by Faiza Ali.
thesisposted on 2022-03-28, 19:33 authored by Faiza Ali
The aim of the thesis is to advance the theory of equal employment opportunities (EEO) by considering how socio-cultural and institutional context affect the nature and issues of EEO for women in Muslim majority countries (MMCs). Pakistan has been chosen as the case study because of the strong influence of socio-cultural factors in this country. The thesis adopted sociological neo-institutional theory to explore the complex process of EEO in MMCs. The concept of EEO for women has been largely researched in western contexts, and has been only partially explored in MMCs. Using multilevel lens, this thesis explores the contextual nature and issues associated with EEO for women in Pakistani organisations (organisations based in Pakistan owned by either local or foreign owners), and theorises EEO in MMCs. The qualitative research methodology consisted of document analysis and semi-structured interviews. Document analysis included reviewing the core Islamic texts (Quran & Hadith), national and international labour laws and organisational policies related to EEO. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with HR managers and female employees from private-sector banking, education and telecommunications organisations, using an interpretive genre to understand the complexity of EEO-related issues in the workplace. The findings revealed that female employees in Pakistani organisations face gender discrimination at multiple levels. At the macro level, the review of the legislative framework of gender equality in the light of Islamic texts suggested that equal opportunity regimes and practices in MMCs are characterised by the same dichotomy found in the normative interpretations of gender diversity in Islam: an egalitarian interpretation advocating affirmative action in women's favour, and a patriarchal interpretation supporting women's subordination to men. The analysis of Pakistani and international laws of EEO highlighted the contradictory implications of national legislation created to 'protect' Pakistani women and the country's weak implementation of international instruments directed towards EEO. The comparison of key features of EEO in three neighbouring South Asian countries - Pakistan, India and Bangladesh - revealed a common trajectory of female disadvantage in employment; however, Pakistani working women face comparatively more disadvantage due to the joint effect of patriarchal cultural traditions and narrow religious interpretations. While Pakistan is an Islamic republic both Bangladesh and India are secular in terms of their constitution. At the meso-organisational level, the findings indicated that organisations cannot be held solely accountable for equal opportunity, because organisational structures and routines of equal opportunity are affected by both macro-societal factors (e.g., legal, socio-cultural) and micro-individual factors (e.g., intersectionality, agency). Implications for policy makers include the need to recognise the dichotomous nature of EEO legislation and focus on laws that are more egalitarian and less patriarchal. Gender mainstreaming at a policy level is very important to improve the EEO situation, and the government should take steps to create awareness-raising programmes at multiple levels. Employers need to recognise the socio-cultural factors that affect EEO-related issues in the workplace. EEO policies need to be explicit, and all employees should be made aware of these policies and of appropriate organisational systems for redressing EEO- or SH-related problems. The thesis contributed to the theory by highlighting the importance of neo-institutional theory and multilevel analysis in the context of EEO in MMCs. This thesis further contributed to empirical knowledge by highlighting multilevel issues and challenges faced by women in Pakistani organisations which remain largely underreported in the mainstream studies. This research has highlighted a tension between the mainstream western notion of EEO and its framing and application in organisations in Pakistan (and possibly other MMCs). In particular, patriarchal interpretations of Islam and other cultural practices appear to be a major barrier to EEO. Indeed, EEO in MMCs such as Pakistan cannot be realistically understood and managed unless issues of gender equality are tackled at multiple levels within and outside the workplace.