Friday, June 13, 2008

Never Hire a Woman in Pakistan (except as a PR Officer or Receptionist)

Before I entered the work force it never occurred to me that learning how to tackle office politics, HR issues and generally retarded crap would is an essential part of any job. Likewise, I could never have imagined that I would ever be advocating an anti-women work policy. But here I am.

I honestly believe that, in Pakistan, hiring a woman in a position of importance is a waste of time and money. More often than not, all that training and cultivating will vanish away as soon as a marriage proposal is sent to the woman’s family. She will get married, then pregnant and will never return.

At the firm we’ve experienced this on so many different occasions that it has led us to seriously question if it’s worth hiring women. Just recently one of our associates, Ms. X, announced that she is going on a six month sabbatical as she had just received a rishta from a nice boy and would be getting married in a few months. Ms. X is a smart and hardworking chemist who joined the firm a couple of years ago and has been working in the Patent department ever since. The field of Patent Law is a highly specialized field and there are only 4 law firms in all of Pakistan dealing in this area, of which only 2 conduct Patent litigation, so Ms. X has spent most of her time learning the vagaries of Patent applications for chemical / pharmaceutical products. Ms.X proved to be exceptionally good. She knew her science, was a fast learner and a great communicator – which is essential as she has to explain chemistry to ‘scientific geniuses,’ like me. But now Ms. X is gone and we are back to square one. And even though Ms. X says that she’ll be back in six months, experience tells us that such an event is extremely unlikely to occur.

So at the end of the day, if you want to protect your HR investment, only hire women in areas where you can find ready replacements. Vilayat return women may be a slighter safer bet but good luck prizing them away from the clutches of multinational corporations.

17 comments:

Ahsan said...

Man, I love AKS' titles.

NB said...

Hahah nice one brown. Misogyny zindabad!

Rafay Alam said...

What did your firm pay the female lawyer in the "highly specialized" (read mind-numbingly boring and extremely lucrative for the boss) field of patent law? Enough for Ms. X to be the independent woman you'd like her to be?
Man, this I isn't your run-of-the-mill misogyny. This one actually thinks he's right.

goc said...

Oh yeah ... what a great way for society to evolve and help young women deal with the social pressures of their gender. Resign them to the secretarial, non-specialized work bin in low-paying jobs so they continue to be dependent on good rishtas to live a life. Because you know, that has worked out so well for us till now. And you wonder why "vilayat returned woman" fall in the "clutches" of MNC's or stay in vilayat. Let me tell you: cause of misogynistic home-grown pricks like you (ever heard of maternity leave?).

I knew it was too good to last. A group of male Pakistani bloggers went almost a whole year (from what I have been reading) without a good ole paki style, ignorant misogynistic, condescending post. And I had my hopes up. I guess thats my own fault ... I was probably PMSing the whole time.

changinguppakistan said...

I'd have to agree with goc on that one - although I'm sure AKS speaks from experience, making grand conjectures that are essentially stereotypes of women in Pakistan exacerbates the very issue you speak of. I am a Pakistani female professional and have had to deal with misogynistic stereotypes my whole life. Unlike the women you speak of, I am ambitious, motivated, and work twice as hard in order to prove that I am as capable (if not more) as my male counterparts. Do women like Ms. X frustrate me? Yes, but so do stereotypes like these.

And I can see the humor in this, I am not just an "angry feminist" to qualify my previous statements.

Ahsan said...

Well, AKS, you really brought it upon yourself this time. And every other time for that matter.

To be serious for a second (and to goc and Chup, I can almost guarantee you that AKS' tongue was firmly in cheek - if you've been reading as long as you say you have, you should know AKS is almost never serious), I think we have to separate the concept of maternity leave (a right) and a long leave for a wedding/rishta (a privilege). A few (2-3) weeks, sure, but anything longer than that, and the firm has to ask questions about the value of retaining that particular worker.

I do think that Rafay raises a good point, because you could get all Godfather-I about it and give her an offer she can't refuse. In other words, give her a contract that grants her only maternity (but not wedding) leave, but pays her handsomely, especially compared to peer law firms. As a lawyer, I'm sure she would respect the value of a contract.

Now I understand that ever since the PCO order, making money for law firms has been problematic because, uh, the courts don't operate, and consequently paying people handsomely is difficult, but the general point stands. Pay them well enough, and they (and their families, no doubt) will think more than twice about leaving for getting married.

And to the dissenters to AKS' post, whether or not it is politically correct to point it out, the fact remains that women in Pakistan, even if they have the ability, talent, and education to work, often do not for family or personal reasons. I am not casting judgment on the whys and hows such pressure comes about; my point is only that from a firm's perspective, it can be a massive sunk cost to have someone work and leave relatively soon. One way around this problem is higher pay as Rafay mentioned, but another might be structured pay that rises relatively quickly the longer you stay (or bonuses for that matter), that incentivize staying in your job irrespective of your family situation (other than maternity leave, which as I said is a right all the over world, or should be anyway).

goc said...

Well ... even if AKS's post was tongue in cheek (which din't really come across but whatever), My anger was not just directed at him but at the general mentality. This is definitely not the first or last time a solution like this has been "offered" to the very real obstacles of being (or hiring) a professional Pakistani woman. And as always, men and woman perpetuate these stereotypes.

Someone might think that access to professional positions for women should be restricted because of the mentioned issues at hand or because women inherently are only capable of secretarial work. While there is a distinction between these two thoughts, as a Pakistani woman what is of concern is that the end conclusion might be the same.

Anyway, back to happier thoughts. Like France being down 2-0 to the Netherlands! :D

Rafay Alam said...

Anywhere else in the world AKS would have to make a public apology for being a bit of a tit.

AKS said...

I'll deal with this step by step so that my prickness is easily understandable.

The problem isn't with granting maternity leave - we're happy to do that. We also offer flexible working hours and transportation (which is one of the most important incentives on offer). As a result of the aforementioned incentives, female employees earn slightly more than their male counterparts. And we do have women working in positions of authority – Director Finance and Administration is a woman, as is one of the Partners.

However, these incentives are not enough to overcome the social pressures on women that result in them discontinuing their careers. (And before we all get high and mighty, there are still women out there who have happily chosen to discontinue their careers to focus on their families.)

This problem also boils down to an examination of class structures. The reason why ‘vilayat returns’ don’t come work for us and go to MNCs (or a handful of other large law firms) is not because my firm is full of misogynist pricks but because we cant afford them – men or women. So you see Ahsan we cannot offer them a “Godfather deal” because we’re not swimming in that kind of cash. (Mr. Rafay Alam seems to think otherwise, he may know more about my firm than I do!) The women who do come to work for us all belong to middle class background (and no living in Defence or PECHS does not make you middle class, no matter what your parents told you – you’re rich, biatch!). The women who have left the firm after their marriages have rarely been forced into quitting; they have just always ‘known’ that they would not work after marriage. It reflects the kind of environment that they’ve grown up in.

If people bothered reading my post rather than just the title, as they would any where else in the world, they would realize that I’m not against women working, I’m just pissed off that they end up leaving after you’ve trained them for two years.(And Ms. X isn’t the only person who has left. We’ve had two lawyers, one accountant and one marketing executive leave in the last three years – and all left because they got married. Another lawyer working for us informed us at the time of her interview that she will leave the job as soon as she gets married – we still hired her because she was the best one for the job; we're also secretly that we can convince her otherwise.


Here’s a practical demonstration of my contention:

I have a budget of Rs.30-35k (starting) and am looking for a skilled Chemist (Ms. X had a Masters from Karachi University, so I’ll prefer someone with the same qualification), in their mid to late twenties. It takes me a year or so to train them. Do I go for the best person for the job or do I go for the best man for the job? (Mind you Ms. X was chosen because she was the best person for the job.) I await your always measured responses.

AKS

P.S. Rafay Alam: No I would not have to apologize if I was in any other country – they do have such a thing as freedom of speech. Then again, my middle name could be Hussain, I could be running for President of the United State and desperately courting the female vote bank, in which case, I apologise. Idiot!

Rafay Alam said...

Uff ho,

"If people bothered reading my post rather than just the title, as they would any where else in the world, they would realize that I’m not against women working, I’m just pissed off that they end up leaving after you’ve trained them for two years."

Okay. Then please explain how this nugget gets into your final paragraph:

"So at the end of the day, if you want to protect your HR investment, only hire women in areas where you can find ready replacements."

The freedom of speech to which you allude - religion and, now increasingly, the Constitution, give refuge to scoundrels - does not extend to being wrong.

That's what the apology would be for, Barry O.

Rafay Alam said...

Now I'm getting into the text (3rd read). Here's another gem:

"I could never have imagined that I would ever be advocating an anti-women work policy. But here I am."

Yes, you most certainly are.

Now, let's see. Was there anything else I missed?

Rafay Alam said...

No, wait, I found something else:

"I honestly believe that, in Pakistan, hiring a woman in a position of importance is a waste of time and money."

C'mom.

And then this:

"Another lawyer working for us informed us at the time of her interview that she will leave the job as soon as she gets married – we still hired her because she was the best one for the job; we're also secretly that we can convince her otherwise."

So you're saying that you'll willfully hire women who - in a broad daylight arms-length transaction - tell you that they're leaving after they get married. Then you have the gall to come here and vent your spleen when they do.

C'mon, AKS, you're supposed to be tongue and cheek and all things nice. I'll give you that. It's just that you haven't really thought this one through.

AKS said...

@ Rafay Alam

"The freedom of speech to which you allude - religion and, now increasingly, the Constitution, give refuge to scoundrels - does not extend to being wrong."

Being wrong of what? Of not sharing the same opinion as you?

Do I think women should not work? No.

Do I think middle class women are more likely to call it quits upon getting married, thus leaving you high and dry? Yes.

"So you're saying that you'll willfully hire women who - in a broad daylight arms-length transaction - tell you that they're leaving after they get married. Then you have the gall to come here and vent your spleen when they do."

So what you're saying is that because Ms. Y informed us that she would leave after getting married, I have no right to get annoyed when any of the women, including Ms. X, decide to call it quits? Are you therefore advocating that we not hire any women because one employee informed us that she would be leaving upon getting married. Hmmm, shurely shome mishtake here!

How about your offering an opinion on what my contention is rather than what you would like it to be.

And one more thing:

"Barry O" ???!!!!! Are you fucking kidding me.

Anonymous said...

rafay, please stop taking quotes out of context and then misrepresenting them.

you are an asswipe.

Ali said...

rafay alam:

those public apologies 'anywhere else in the world' are usually politically correct responses for when people in so-called 'multicultural' societies express their honest opinions and strong convictions, somewhat artificially given so as not to 'mess up' the balance of the romantically tolerant society.

Anonymous said...

I am surprised how one sees the world from their own point of view. I am a full time working woman. I got married after 4 years of my job. I am blessed with a baby boy. I availed two months full paid maternity leaves and one month of my saved PL leaves, of course with the permission of my bosses. My son is now two and half years old and I am still working full time.

By elaborating my situation I am not giving away any convincing point that we woman don’t leave jobs permanently for marriage or pregnancy purposes.

Let’s see the picture in true manner. It has nothing to do with woman or man. It has nothing to do with leaves. It has nothing to do with reasoning of leaving the job.

Just consider the marriage or pregnancy one of the reasons for leaving the job along with many others. Many men leave the job for getting more and vast work experience. Some discontinue for their education continuation. Some leave for better opportunity. Some leave to fly for abroad with their family for better financial opportunities. Please forgive me by quoting that I saw five people not coming to job very next day because there were no more. Can you avoid death? Can u avoid other reasons?

Moreover, in current HR scenario, sticking to one job more than 5 years in very early years of career is considered to be a backlog in personal career goal achievements. Should I call it keooan ka mandak.

If you are failed to develop systems and your company is run by workers instead of SYSTEMS, then please be brave to accept your loop holes. If there is proper system then any person going or coming does not matter at all. If there is parallel HR development, and stand by workers force ready by the system then any person leaving for any reason will not matter to you.

Respected men, if you are most appreciating if a person discontinue from one firm or company for so many reasons like education, career etc. why you are condemning the reason that is specific to ladies. Please ask from your conscious. Is not it just superiority complex?

Dear men, you are already superior to us. We can not take back this privilege from you that are given to you by Allah. We are working for you, for your families, for your financial support. If you stand beside us today, we will help you reach the sky high. Help in creating equal opportunity environment today, leave aside your gender jealousy and then you will see that we can push you up to the sky height. Don’t make us humiliated today so that we will be able to rejoin you in all your challenges after some years when our children will be grown up.

Anonymous said...

Hi my name is AT, Im a bloke from the UK, I specialise in recruitment, and general HR matters, and have run my own recruitmnet firm for many years, working internationally around the world in pretty speciailsed market sectors. And i must say I had a great laugh at this post, the subsequent comments and the lofty idealistic ravings of some the contributors on here. As a Uk national of Pakistani decent I am more than familiar with the Pakistani mentality and (il)logical approach to these matters and suffice it to say that in the context of AKS's original comments, there is truth in them. But that does not excuse the overall genrality of the approach, which in essence, exists - firms like AKS's and individuals like AKS are as much a part of the problem as the problem itself.

And dear lady, what is this 'Respected men' bullshit - if you want equality then have the guts to fight for it.

regards all