Today, only 47% of women globally are engaged in the labour market, as compared to 74% of men.
In Asia, this percentage varies widely. Less than one in three women, or 23.6%, in South Asia are active in the labour market, versus 80% for men. In East Asia, the gap is less worrisome as the participation rate for women remains the second highest globally at 61.3%
Such huge disparities and deep inequality do not happen by chance. Discrimination, biases, social norms and expectations influence the opportunities girls receive in education and at work. Societal and cultural perceptions of gender can be deep-rooted and puts a detrimental brake on progress towards sustainable development.
But this year’s International Women’s Day campaign #EachforEqual emphasises how gender inequality is not just a women’s issue, but an economic one – as gender equality is essential for economies and communities to thrive.
“An equal world is an enabled world”
That is the core message of #EachforEqual, the idea that each of us can make a difference on the larger society. According to McKinsey Global Institute, closing the gender gaps could add $4.5 trillion to the Asia Pacific economy by 2025, a 12% increase over the business-as-usual trajectory.
In the Asian countries where Telenor operates, there is large disparity – but also vast opportunity – in gender equality. In Malaysia and Myanmar, more than one in two women aged 15 to 64 are in the workforce, while Thailand sees over 60% of women in the workforce. The number drops to 38% in Bangladesh and 25% in Pakistan. However, in a pattern mimicked across the globe, the higher up the leadership chain, the fewer women you find – women only hold 12% of CEO and board level positions in Southeast Asia.
Making strides across Asia
Nonetheless, Telenor’s companies in Asia have been bucking the trend and making diversity a top priority. At dtac in Thailand, the number of female employees outnumber males by 1.5 times – 6 in 10 employees are women. In Telenor Myanmar, around 40% of the workforce are women and close to 30% of leaders are female.
At Digi in Malaysia, there is a healthy and progressive gender diversity at the top – with 48% female and 52% male representation at management level, as well as a 43% women representation on the Board, surpassing the Malaysian government’s recommendation of 30%. Industry-leading practices have also helped Digi to achieve a 50-50 male-female workforce.