What Development Practitioners Need to Know about Gender, ICT and Labor Force Participation
Many of the recommendations in this page are based on cases documented in Case Studies section. See 'Delivery of Social Service, Economic and Political Empowerment, and Labor Market Participation' .
- Inadequacy of data on labor-market participation by women in the ICT sector:
The dearth of data makes it difficult to draw meaningful conclusions. Moreover, the data are scattered and inconsistent in terms of year of compilation. Hence, there is a need to streamline data collection efforts.
- Labor and ICT policies should support women:
The ICT labor market seems to be largely dominated by males in the majority of countries. For overcoming the gender imbalance, labor and ICT policies need to have special provisions for women. Thoughtful changes by the government and policymakers can boost women's participation in the ICT labor market as shown in the case study of Mongolia Telecom (Mongolia Telecom).
- Appropriate use of existing laws and regulations:
Sometimes employment generation for women in the ICT sector can also involve identifying existing laws and regulations in other domains, such as reservations mandated by the law for the disabled, and using them to women's advantage. FIWD (Foundation for the Independence of Women with Disabilities) had done similar work in Sri Lanka within the Centre for Computer and Language Training project.
- Need for family friendly policies and facilities in ICT firms in developing countries:
The globalization of ICTs implies that the workplace realities prevalent in the labor sector in developed countries such as long working hours and high-pressured jobs, are also present in developing countries. Yet, family friendly policies such as flexible office hours, part-time working, working from home, residential facilities, generous maternity benefits, and satisfactory childcare facilities are almost non-existent in developing countries. Because of a gendered division of labor at the household level in most developing countries, the presence of these facilities would have benefited women much more than men, and their absence creates a gender-unequal adverse effect on women working in the ICT sector.
- Lack of opportunities for women in developing countries:
In developed economies there is no dearth of infrastructure and education opportunities for females, so they posses a natural advantage of working in the ICT sector by choice. In developing economies, there is huge scope in the ICT sector, but there is a lack of required infrastructure and appropriate educational opportunities for women. Therefore there is a lack of employment opportunities as well as scope for improvisation.
- Poor representation of women in senior positions:
Women appear to be cluttered at the lower levels of organizations. There are a disproportionately higher number employed at call services and as programmers and a much smaller number employed as project managers. As far as upward mobility in organizations is concerned, women seem to take distinctly more time than men to move from entry to the middle level and from middle to managerial levels, which suggests a constrained and gender-biased internal labor market for women employees in the ICT sector. To remove the gender disparity at higher levels, women need an equal and fair chance to climb the administrative ladder. Our case studies show that if organizations show commitment to building a woman-supportive climate and follow proactive policies to remove prejudices, the numbers and presence of women in senior positions improves.
- Realistic goals are easily achievable:
Our case studies show that initial targets should be kept neither unachievable nor very low. A realistic target combined with focused organizational efforts helps increase the participation of female employees at the managerial level. However, the initial number of females at the managerial level is usually so low that it is difficult to reach a higher target.
- Need for employing more and more women and for women-friendly company policies:
The social bias against working women and women at higher levels can only be reduced through employing more women and instituting women-friendly company policies. The policies need not be biased toward women, but they should support women by considering their additional responsibilities at home. For example conventional family roles and responsibilities sometimes prevent women with young children from devoting more time at work. Companies can provide daycare centers and counseling to female employees to ease their pressure.
- Conscious organizational efforts like training and awareness generation support women's progression:
As evident from the case studies, thoughtful organizational interventions lead to positive effects, such as generating awareness about objective evaluation and fair treatment of women, building women's competencies through training, and helping them move up the organizational hierarchy.
- Trained women workers can be an asset to the firm:
Skill-building programs for female workers benefit not only the participants but also the company, because it saves the trouble of searching for skilled professionals outside the company. Moreover, with reduced gender imbalance the integrity and equality within the company can also be maintained, which is important for keeping the workforce intact and motivated.
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