By Nasira Mazhar
I recently moved to Karachi, Pakistan from Canada to be with my husband who is a native of the metropolitan city. Eager to start my new life here, and after recovering from jet lag, I began my job search in a new country.
I have lived in Canada since the age of 12, so Pakistan was a whole new revelation for me. This post details my perspective of job hunting in Pakistan as a Canadian citizen. My family is originally from Lahore; thus, this is my first time settling in the City of Lights, Karachi.
I have 7 years of work experience and have gone through the routine hiring practice in Canada to secure different positions in my years of employment history. Needless to say, I was very excited to jump into the Pakistani labor market to explore my options and to continue to contribute to the society at large as an earning member of the human population.
However, my experience so far has given me a first-hand glimpse of the struggles and sexism a woman experiences when they step outside their homes for personal/ professional growth to build a career.
I have applied to various positions in the last 15 days. Some of the questions that I had to answer along this process have proven that we as humans have a long way to go before we pat ourselves on the back for providing equal opportunities to women in the 21st century.
Here’s my story.
Cannot Differentiate Between Professional and Personal Lives
A sample of the questions I had to answer as part of my job application included: whether ‘I have a medical/mental illness’ or whether ‘I smoke cigarettes or cigars.’
I also came across at least 10-12 job applications that specified that they are only hiring a man for the advertised role. There were also couple job postings that were addressed to women and one of the posting had a section that asked for age and name of her husband. God forbid if one does not have a spouse, or is over or under a certain age, regardless of their depth of education and experience, will that reduce their chances of being employed?
Another interviewer told me that they can accommodate my duties so that I can work from my home as they are sure I have home expectations from my spouse and his family even though I specified that I have no problem working at their office space.
The Malaise is Deep
To put icing on the cake, just yesterday, I attended another in- person interview for a teaching position and the H.R representative who was also a female was more concerned about my family situation rather than teaching skills.
If that wasn’t enough, please note this company is a well-known and a reputable teaching brand in Pakistan and has institutions across the world.
The HR representative asked me if I live in a home or an apartment and if I am part of a joint family system (living with in-laws/extended family). She also asked about my interactions with my in-laws and if I have expectations from them regarding cooking and cleaning as the position I am applying for is full-time and I might not have enough time to devote to being a good wife/ daughter-in-law.
She further went on to ask about my parents and brother and their employment and if I lived in a home or an apartment in Canada. I was dumfounded and confused with the lines of questioning and wondered if I am applying for a teaching position or addressing a matrimonial inquiry.
The World Needs More Women in the Labor Force
If we look at the statistics, women’s participation in the workplace stands at 48% globally, whereas, men’s participation in the global workplace is at 75%.
In addition, the global earnings gap between men and women continues to be a struggle as the 2017 survey indicates that women on average earn $12,000/year compared to men’s earning of $21,000/year.
There are several factors that contribute to this such as: women are expected in most societies to be the primary home makers and are often trained at a young age on domestic duties. Women also spend more time than their male counterparts doing unpaid work such as home and child care.
I have been fortunate that during my employment tenure in Canada and as a visible minority female, I have never experienced blatant sexism that I have experienced in my days in Karachi.
I am also aware that discrimination and prejudice against women exists in western societies as well, as I have family and friends in Canada. These are Engineers, Corporate Workers, business owners I’m talking about here, and even they had to go through some form of questioning from their employers and their co-workers on their work ethic and their ability to do their work as women.
However, I do know there are equal opportunities employers out here in Karachi who strive to treat women as an equal workforce participants and I hope to find these employers soon. Its just that they’re not as visible as need be.
About the Author
Nasira Mazhar is a Canadian Citizen and a Graduate of the University of Alberta, Canada who has lived in Edmonton, Alberta since the age of 12 and is currently on a lifetime adventure of settling in Karachi, Pakistan.