Covid takes a toll on female employment rate in banks
The coronavirus pandemic has taken a toll on female employment rate in Bangladesh's banking sector, causing it to fall alarmingly in the first half of this year.
The ratio of female employees stood at 15.8 per cent as of June this year in contrast to 18.7 per cent a year ago, according to data from Bangladesh Bank.
Senior bankers and rights activists said many female bankers had left their jobs during the pandemic in order to take care of their families better.
In addition, the females took the decision with a view to limiting movement to protect their family members given the contagious nature of the deadly virus.
Although all are susceptible and are required to take protective measures, the male-dominated society chiefly forced members of the opposite sex to take the harsh decision, said a female official of a private bank wishing not to be named.
Male employees usually do not face such a situation, she said, adding that leaving jobs is highly frustrating for females.
The number of female employees in banks stood at 29,513 as of June, an increase of 5.1 per cent year-on-year.
The total number of male employees stood at 157,271 in contrast to 150,432 the year before.
Syed Mahbubur Rahman, managing director of Mutual Trust Bank Limited, said a good number of female workers quit their jobs during the pandemic.
The female employees feared that they might become infected with the coronavirus if they continued venturing out of their homes, he said.
On top of that, it was more difficult for females to go to their workplaces amidst strict restrictions on movement imposed by the government to contain the pandemic, he said.
Some banks even did not implement the work from home measures in an appropriate manner during the lockdown, putting an adverse impact on female bankers in continuing with their profession, Rahman added.
Md Arfan Ali, managing director of Bank Asia Limited, echoed him.
In most of the cases, female employees prioritised their families over their jobs, which is why some of them left their profession during the pandemic, he said.
However, he went on to hope that the number of female employees would rise in the coming days as the education rate among women was increasing.
The ratio of female employees stood at 15.8 per cent in state-owned banks as of June this year, down from 18 per cent a year ago.
The ratio in specialised banks went down to 13.7 per cent from 15.5 per cent while that of private banks fell to 15.7 per cent from 18.9 per cent.
Foreign banks also saw a big dropout as the ratio fell to 24.7 per cent from 33 per cent.
Emranul Huq, managing director of Dhaka Bank Limited, said they had recruited entry-level officials in different positions this year but had not been able to appoint as many women as expected.
The bank set a target to appoint females to at least 20 per cent of the total entry-level jobs but failed to do so, he said.
"The Covid-19 crisis might have played a negative impact to this end," Huq added.
Sadeka Halim, dean of the faculty of social sciences at the University of Dhaka, said many families were affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
"And the gender specific impact of coronavirus had been severe," she added.
Female members in the family had to take more responsibilities to combat the coronavirus crisis, she said.
Besides, it appears that many female job seekers do not get financial support from their families to prepare for the competitive tests for banking jobs, she said.
Halim went on to say that banks should have taken the approach of positive discrimination to hire more women.
Maleka Banu, general secretary of Bangladesh Mahila Parishad's central committee, said the pandemic had affected women in every sector.
She accused some lenders of showing less enthusiasm in appointing females.
Women who did manage to get a job despite the odds now face different roadblocks in continuing with their profession.
"Sexual harassment and a lack of required promotions eventually discourage them to carry on," Banu said.
In some cases, they do not get proper support from their family members, she added.
Against this backdrop, many of them resign, Banu said.
In June this year, 16.28 per cent of the entry-level staff was female but the percentage of mid to high-level staff was 15.59 per cent and 8.93 per cent respectively.