| July 31st, 2007

* towards a gender friendly workspace

From Our Archive:

The Days have changed, they say. Gone are the days when Bangladeshi girls were groomed from childhood to be able to impress their in laws in future. They were trained to be a versatile chef, an expert in stitching and sewing and sometimes a talented singer. Today Bangladeshi parents have become more open to their daughter’s prospects in life. Although a decent husband still tops the list, but parents these days are a little more flexible about their daughter’s education, their job prospects and most importantly their own choices and goals.

Maybe because of this change in perspectives and the strong will of Bangladeshi girls, women of Bangladesh have become a substantial part of the service sectors in the country. Not only that, different entrepreneurial loans towards women’s enterprises now encourage more and more women to come out of their households and participate in the economy of Bangladesh.

What is noticeable is that working environment in larger private sector offices are becoming more and more gender friendly these days. I was quite surprised to see facilities such as day care centers, women’s washrooms with special arrangements for Wazu, separate place for prayer, preference to women when it comes to using office transportation and policies which encourage a women employee’s appointment to be at a field office in her own home district or where her spouse is. Most private organizations also have separate gender policies which helps towards a sexual harassment free environment.

Yet, all these achievements still do not guarantee security to all working women. The advantages and security within the organization depend largely on the level (position/designation) of the employee and the attitude of the men in the organization. Outside the organization, services such as transport, security and social acceptance depend largely on localities. While some areas of the city have decent facilities and environment for working women there are many areas that need to improve the facilities and overall attitude towards working women. Improving the environment to facilitate women to work outside may come through a conscious effort from the government and overall willingness of our traditional society to accept cultural and social modernization.

In all this, I noticed that the younger generation is losing interest in government sectors. One of the main reasons is facilities for women employees are way limited in government sectors than private organizations. This could be due to the fact that government offices are less flexible than private organizations to fulfill the need of time.

Being a career woman in Dhaka, I think to develop further the already improving situation; we must educate the employees who are mostly men, on how to work with women and vice versa. Employee development training curricula should include gender sensitivity, communication skill building and other such contents which will help the employees to behave in a more sensitive way within the organization. Men need to be aware of the difference in styles between men and women, at the same time they need to learn how to treat the female co-workers same way as they treat other male co-workers. When this cultural shift happens men will be able value the women co-workers for their merit and will not have any resistance to have them as their boss. This kind of exercise can lead us towards a more gender friendly working environment in the organization and in the society eventually. We need to remember that women who are joining the work force have to play a very pro-active role in this process.

I am interested in getting feedback on how else this growing participation of women in the work force can be facilitated further.

[About the author – Nazia Hussein completed her BS from York University, Canada, in International Development Studies and Communication Studies. She is currently residing in Dhaka and is working as a Sector Specialist (Gender) at BRAC, the largest NGO in the county. She has been writing for Daily Star and other newspapers since she was 16.

Nazia has written this piece for us as a guest blogger. If you are intersted to write for us please send email to blog AT adhunika DOT org

-Adhunika Admin]


No Responses to “* towards a gender friendly workspace”

  1. Oneza says:

    I agree that men need to learn appropriate manners to deal with women. But at the same time, women should come forward to establish their positions as well. They should achieve the personality to be respected in their appearances, attire, conversation and friendliness.

    Even in US, I have seen women in secretarial positions are more willing to take command from their male bosses, than female counterparts. I think it is the perception among women to take command from men that needs to be changed as well.

  2. Nadira says:

    In broader aspect women in our society still a raw deal. Deprived of every kind of right from the moment she is born, a woman is constantly told how weak, insignificant and dependent she is. Discrimination is unfortunately the biggest reality that woman face at every level. Freedom for women in this country is still far cry from that enjoyed in the West. But things are changing, little slowly. Practical realities of modern life have forced women out of their cocoons, changing their roles and attitudes towards men, marriage and themselves. The new independent-mined woman is not confined only to the educated liberal thinking middle class, women from lower middle classes or poorer backgrounds are becoming more self-sufficient, although out of economic necessary.

    Women should come forward and take control of their own life and establish their rights in the male dominating society. They should fight their way forward to pursue equal professional opportunities, education, decision making, housework and child care which are necessary for both men and women. I guess men and women should share these functions equally to make a gender friendly work space for everywhere.

  3. Ishret says:

    I agree with Oneza, women have to come forward to establish their own positions. It is not only men who are (of course not all men) reluctant to receive directions from female boss, in many cases women also feel they connect with male bosses better. I don’t know if there is any psychological fact behind this. I worked for a male boss for over 3 years and he was a true gentleman, a great boss. My current boss is a woman and she is a wonderful person I have to say. She has very strong personality that makes her a popular figure at all levels of management. I’m sure she did not achieve this overnight. She thinks women have to work twice as much to prove themselves.

    I would say we need to believe in ourselves first, have confidence on our abilities and then we can earn other people’s trust and respect.


  4. Shahnaz says:

    Wishing for a ‘Gender Friendly Workspace’ on May Day.

  5. Fariha Sarawat says:

    Great article Nazia…
    But the saddest thing is that our goals for a gender friendly workplace are still far far from being totally realized. Glass-ceiling, covert harassment and outright discrimination still plagues our system. Even in the fancy telecom offices women are objectified and harassed using covert techniques. The patriarchy that still defines our roles even in workplaces, keeps reinforcing the idea that women are not as efficient or hard-working as men, as ‘home’ would always be their first priority! Morever, women who admit to their career being their first priority are outcasted as ‘fast’.
    I agree with Ishret. Women have to work twice as hard (often for less pay) to prove themselves. Even now, with the growth of professionalism in the services sector, it seems that men are still getting the larger slice of the cake.

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Adhunika blog is launched with a mission to share knowledge among women from every walk of life. Sometime it would be in the form of sharing experience to find a feasible solution of a problem; sometime it would be in the form of professional consultation, which Adhunika group will arrange for its bloggers. Nevertheless, the intent of this blog always remains the same - to help and empower women through a common web-based platform....read more



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