Pakistan Financial Industry Still Gender Biased

The glass ceiling is firmly in place across the banking industry despite rhetoric to the contrary

In western corporate circles, the debate continues on the percentage of women in leadership positions including multilateral educational institutions, parliaments and corporate boards. Stereotypes and barriers that prevent women from climbing to the top of the corporate ladder still exist and companies in Pakistan need to focus on issues of diversity, leadership and gender.

Despite having a woman governor of the State Bank of Pakistan in the past as well as a woman prime minister, the number of women in financial and economic decision making roles is an extremely dismal and lopsided state of affairs. Apart from First Women’s Bank, there is not a single commercial bank with a woman member on the board of directors or in a CEO position. Even group head level and senior management is predominantly dominated by men in financial institutions.
The State Bank of Pakistan and key commercial banks are observed to have less than 2% of women representation in top management. There are only nine women in top management across the top ten banks. In the broader context, commercial banking has a high number of women entering the profession from entry-level position but only men are rising to the top positions. Among mutual funds and in terms of assets under management women manage only 1.5% of total industry assets. The number of women on the boards of mutual funds is less than 3% or four out of 140. The percentage of women on investment committees is only 8% or specifically, 11 out of 131.
In the Pakistan financial industry, this would only represent roughly 16% on average of total industry assets under management by women. There is only one woman board member on the Lahore Stock Exchange and none on the Islamabad and Karachi Stock Exchanges. That is one out of 32 directors on the three boards combined. To address this disparity first financial services firms need to be mindful of it and secondly address the situation by being an equal opportunity employer in spirit and by letter.


Annie Duke
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