Equality means business: Elizabeth Benham

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KARACHI: The International Federation of Business and Professional Women (BPW) President Elizabeth Benham in an exclusive interview with Pakistan Today during her visit to Pakistan last week, stated she had been informed there was no ‘pay gap’ between the genders in Pakistan and that local companies had managed to boost their profits by up to 30 percent, merely by introducing three or four women on their board of directors.
Moreover, corporations have decided to disclose the representation of women in their annual reports precisely because women contribute so much to the final result, she added.
However, she stressed that there is a disparity in incomes in the private sector and women earn lower salaries than their male compatriots. This phenomenon is repeated all over the world, both in developing and developed countries; even in the US, a 29 percent pay gap between the genders exists, Benham cited.
She clarified that women do not earn equal wages despite the fact that in most countries women are the breadwinners for their families. They earn relatively less working in the same capacity men do.
Her organisation undertook the ‘equal pay day awareness’ campaign last year, its logo is globally recognised. Women carry red handbags in solidarity with the effort to highlight and address a major issue.
She demanded that women be allowed to play a stronger role in decision making and expressed her sadness that gender inequality remained so prevalent.
Her organisation celebrated its 80th anniversary and there still remains a lot that must be done to address the plight of the average working woman. The organisation has global outreach; even in Afghanistan, it established a BPW association despite the difficulty in sustaining operations in a war zone.
BPW holds consultative status in the UN’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and participatory status with the council of Europe, while BPW members can be attend meetings at UN in the capacity of observers, enabling them to pinpoint issues and policies for further lobbying in their respective countries, she informed. She also revealed that the organization has permanent representatives in almost every country to liaise respective governments.
BPW Pakistan is very active, highly committed and professional, she claimed. A second campaign launched was the ‘women empowerment principles’ that has been launched this year. It has an ambitious agenda, encompassing health, education, equal pay and is meant to empower women and give them equal rights, “because equality means business.”
“Putting the onus on empowerment engenders economic sustainability in the developing world. We know that women are most affected by an economic downturn, so empowering women will always yield dividends for the economy”, she elaborated.
She also pointed out that her organisation has called on governments to address the pay gap which was clear even in national statistics. She also lauded the role of the media in helping create awareness about the pressing issue.