Women continue to trail far behind men in the top leadership roles

Women continue to trail far behind men in the top leadership roles

The gender parity remains a long way off making the women leadership trail, including in politics, far behind much-touted goals

Lhakpa Tshering

It is not that Bhutan is not ready for gender equality. It is not that women aren’t ambitious and capable of being leaders. Instead, the key reasons for gender gaps in leadership occurrence are perception and gender bias.

While talking about trickling upwards and mask the barriers that women face for far longer and still continue to elevate women’s voices and the conversation, yet the gender parity remains a long way off making the women leadership trail, including in politics, far behind much-touted goals.

In a broad range of fields, climbing the ladder of top leadership positions for women remains an inequitable feat. Despite women’s participation in politics leave a lot to be desired, their presence even in the grassroots local government remains a man’s game – male-dominated environments.

It was International Women’s Day (IWD) where some experienced women leaders shared their insights stories of women and perspectives on overcoming challenges and positioning for future success in women’s leadership summit themed “women in leadership: achieving an equal future in a Covid-19 world” in Thimphu.

The former minister for works and human settlement, Dasho Dorji Choden said that housework demands and family responsibilities among the reasons women fail to reach top executives and focus on the political sphere. “All of us need to come together to relieve women from the double and triple burden,” she said.

She said that the deep-rooted stereotype gender roles – women for domestic and men for the public – are still strong. “Women are severely under-represented at the top executives and in the parliament,” she added.

According to her, gender stereotype roles is not perceived as outright discrimination but definitely considering women to grow professionally and take part in the development and public lives especially in a political career and top executives.

Support from a spouse is paramount so that women can perform the public duties well. She said that a woman’s success depends on her supportive spouse and family members. “We say behind every successful man, there is a woman. Can we not have a man behind a successful woman?” she said.

To change behaviour and break the glass ceiling, people need to make a conscious effort to identify and recognize this bias within their organization so that women can move up to positions of prominence.

The director-general for the department of national properties, Kesang Deki said that it is important to have mandatory programs where people should be asked to come in and talk and debate on unconscious social issues especially related to gender bias – both men and women – and diversity at the workplace.

While everything is not done intentionally, she said, it’s because of unconscious biases that the people believed. “You cannot change what you are not aware of. Once you become aware, then only you can expect change,” she added.

Kesang Deki said that the executive leaders in the civil servants should lead the drive of positive change and consciously create a space where women can also thrive in their careers. “If there is more mandatory awareness conducted, I feel much more awareness will happen,” she said, adding there are gender focal persons in all the agencies.

While the participation of women in public and political decision-making processes is essential to raise the visibility of women’s issues, it has attracted a lot of attention among all the discussions. It is still a man’s world.

The Chairperson of the Anti-Corruption Commission, Deki Pema said there are still some steps specifically requiring gender representation in existing decision-making platforms to ensure that women have a voice and a role in decision making. “Would more women be able to progress further in their career and reach leadership positions?” she said.

Today, women filled just 15 percent in the Parliament and the figure is even lower in the local government where they occupy only 0.9 percent as gups. They hold just 14 percent of top executives and accounted for just 39 percent in civil service against 49 percent of populations being women.

Meanwhile, the director-general for South Asia Initiative to End Violence against children (SAIVAC) or Child Right Coalition (CRC) expert committee, Dr Rinchen Chophyel, called for the establishment of a Ministry for Women and Children to bridge the gender gap.

The National Commission for Women and Children will discuss the recommendation with other relevant agencies.

The Thimphu declaration 2021

  • Adopt and promote gender responsive policies and programs
  • Review and mainstream gender into existing legislation, policies, plans and programs to encourage greater participation of women in political and public sphere.
  • Promote inclusive approach with inclusion of women’s voices, concerns and perspective in any decision making
  • Enhance women’s capacity to participate in decision-making and leadership
  • Double up efforts and actions to promote empowerment and advancement of women in all spheres
  • Take all necessary measures to eliminate all forms of discrimination and violence against women and girls, and remove all obstacles to gender equality
  • Generate and disseminate gender disaggregated data and information for planning and evaluation
  • Ensure gender balance in any forums, committees and boards
  • Ensure implementation of Terma Linca Declaration 2015, Thimphu Declaration 2017 and the National Plan of Action to Promote Gender Equality in Elected Office (NPAPGEEO)
  • Ensure the Implementation of National Gender Equality Policy 2020
  • Continue to honour and respect international obligations that Bhutan is a party to, CEDAW and Beijing Platform for Action.