With millions of young Nepali males serving as menial migrant labourers abroad and contributing around 32% of the country’s GDP in form of remittances it is obvious that Nepali women at home are in no way behind in contributing to the country’s economy.
One cannot assert that women-folk are doing this willingly but toiling, they are indeed to keep home and hearth alive. With most able bodied males compelled to work abroad in view of Nepal’s precarious economic situation, women have to pitch in. Their involvement is diverse – from the agriculture sector to micro and small businesses to NGOs and INGOs.
Some women from the elite section of society do manage middle and major businesses which they have inherited. However, examples of self-made major business women remain few and far between in Nepal. But this is not surprising in a largely patriarchal and feudal society.
Though the country is currently run by a Communist government, it seems that a fair dispensation for our women is not foreseeable in the near future. Deeply entrenched and archaic social mores, mind-set and attitude do not make way for pragmatic, progressive and enlightened outlook easily.
women engage in agriculture and farm-related activities in the most difficult of terrains, run bazaar shops and markets in towns and hinterland in the face of male tyranny at home and outside. They are our real fighters, holding fort both at home and outside. They have been multi-tasking much before the term found its way in management jargon.
To some extent, Nepal shares this predicament with many of its neighbouring countries and non-Western nations. We are continuing with our orthodox ways at our own peril.
Women usually form half the population of any country. But in Nepal, they are all the more predominant, population wise, as millions of our young and middle-aged males are eking out a living abroad and also sending money home. This is our compulsion.
But should we not try to induct more women in our businesses and industries? Should we not ensure that women employees and managers are assessed and promoted solely on the basis of their competence and ability? Why should gender come in the way of their rise? Why should the glass ceiling inhibit the growth of women alone?
Nepal desperately needs diversity in its corporate rank and file. By denying women their due in the world of commerce, Nepal is depriving itself of its home-grown talent. It would be foolhardy to depend on highly-paid expatriates until and unless there is an emergency and local talent in a particular domain is simply not available. But we can gradually build capacity by training our own female citizens.
Though I am, in this article, focusing on inclusion of only women in Nepalese business and industry, it would not be out of place to quote a McKinsey report which highlights a more holistic approach on hunting and nurturing talent.
The McKinsey report states: “Our latest research analyses more data from more companies than ever before. Three years on (2018), does the link between company financial performance and ethnic, cultural, and gender diversity stand up to greater scrutiny?…
“We know intuitively that diversity matters. It’s also increasingly clear that it makes sense in purely business terms. Our latest research finds that companies in the top quartile for gender or racial and ethnic diversity are more likely to have financial returns above their national industry medians. Companies in the bottom quartile in these dimensions are statistically less likely to achieve above-average returns. And diversity is probably a competitive differentiator that shifts market share toward more diverse companies over time.”
It is obvious that more diverse workforces perform better financially. Some of the findings in McKinsey’s report Diversity Matters, which are relevant to this article, examined proprietary data sets for 366 public companies across a range of industries in Canada, Latin America, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The focus was on financial results and the composition of top management and boards. The findings were clear:
Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.
Companies in the bottom quartile both for gender and for ethnicity and race are statistically less likely to achieve above-average financial returns than the average companies in the data set (that is, bottom-quartile companies are lagging rather than merely not leading).
Racial and ethnic diversity has a stronger impact on financial performance in the United States than gender diversity, perhaps because earlier efforts to increase women’s representation in the top levels of business have already yielded positive results.
In the United Kingdom, greater gender diversity on the senior-executive team corresponded to the highest performance uplift in our data set: for every 10 per cent increase in gender diversity, EBIT (earnings before income and taxes) rose by 3.5%.
While certain industries perform better on gender diversity and other industries on ethnic and racial diversity, no industry or company is in the top quartile on both dimensions.
The McKinsey data provides enough pointers pertaining to benefits of gender diversity in the middle and higher echelons of the corporate world. It is a pity that such data is conspicuous by its absence in Nepal. It is also indicative of the fact that our companies are not even thinking in this direction.
Barring family-run companies, I have hardly come across any women in the senior management let alone the board of directors. Women continue to work largely as stenographers, telephone operators, personal secretaries and similar positions. Ironically, this is all the more so in bigger and established companies where males prevail. Start-ups and smaller outfits, which are more exposed to the new economy, are prone to ignore gender discrimination. Run mostly by the younger generation, companies engaged in ITeS (Information Technology Enabled Services), digital marketing, advertising, designing, education, tutions, food & beverages, trading, chartered accountancy, etc. are caring less and less about gender discrimination and inducting more and more women. Merit seems to be the sole criterion for employing youth – women or men.
I have rarely come across more sturdy women than the Nepalese. With large number of able-bodied males working abroad, these girls and women hold things together in Nepal. They engage in agriculture and farm-related activities in the most difficult of terrains, run bazaar shops and markets in towns and hinterland in the face of male tyranny at home and outside. They are our real fighters, holding fort both at home and outside. They have been multi-tasking much before the term found its way in management jargon.
And, when bored, many of them scale the Everest – once, twice! All this requires both physical and mental strength and prowess.
Yet, Nepal’s big business refuses to train the eves adequately and accommodate them in accordance with their abilities. Why this resistance to women’s inclusion? When will we witness a Nepali woman professional heading a known and reputed company in the country.
When will we create an eco-system which will encourage and motivate our women to move up the corporate ladder?
Perhaps when our males get rid of their false egos! Will that happen sooner than later or ever?
Basant Chaudhary is a Poet, Writer, The Chairman of BLC and Basant Chaudhary Foundation. (firstname.lastname@example.org)