Another dilemma is the increasing gender gap where concrete measures are required to be taken by Pakistan to fill this gap. According to a Pakistani English daily newspaper’s report, Pakistan’s gender gap has widened by 0.7 percentage points (55.6 per cent) leading only to Iraq, Yemen and Afghanistan and ranked 153 out of 156 countries on the index. In the South Asian region, Pakistan ranked seventh out of eight countries. In the context of female’s labour force participation, only 22.6 per cent of women play a role in the uplift of the economy. The position on the managerial level is abysmal with only 4.9 per cent of women as per Global Gender Gap Index. However, a minor improvement, from 23.4 per cent to 25.3 per cent, can be seen with more women taking on professional and technical roles. Pakistan ranking, based on International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates, in terms of female labour force participation is 166th with a score of 24.10, a little above India (171) and below Bangladesh (154). Women who are willing to enter into the job market but do not own vehicles face certain issues. In fact, travel is a significant access constraint that women face in Pakistan. These barriers are not always readily reconcilable. It has also been observed that training in agriculture skills for women falls substantially as they simply cross a (virtual) village boundary. These non-economic costs are generated by conservative norms that women face when leaving their community. These results have important welfare and distributional consequences on women and their households. Further, there is the challenge of including more marginalised rural women who get excluded from participating in such programs (Cheema et al., 2018). Women are not aware of laws, rights and wages, which govern their equitable participation in the workforce. This ambiguity fuels uncertainty towards stepping out for active workforce participation. Women are not aware of laws, rights and wages, which govern their equitable participation in the workforce. According to a World Bank report, Amir et al. (2018) argue that women have less diversified career choices than men. 82 per cent of women with post-secondary schooling have jobs in the professional sector, but this overall number of women with post-secondary schooling, who are also employed, is considerably low. There are a few options for women in terms of middle-skilled positions, with work for women being concentrated either in low-level agricultural work or professional services employment. In terms of professional employment, firms themselves often have gender-discriminatory attitudes and are reluctant to hire women in managerial capacities. Culturally, the only acceptable and respected professions are considered to be teachers and doctors/nurses. Other professions that involve a more male-dominated work culture are generally discouraged. Even if a workplace is deemed appropriate, travelling may lead to an unsafe environment, making women dependent on male relatives for transport that severely limits their work choices and mobility. The portrayal of Women in Pakistani Art and Literature In Pakistan’s popular literature and drama, the heroine is portrayed as a symbol of modesty, dignity and beauty. Someone, who rarely has her own identity except as a daughter, mother, sister, wife or a love interest. The storyline in the popular literature in Pakistan revolves around marriage and motherhood–considered the ultimate goals a woman should aspire for in life. It is woven in a misogynist framework; thus glorifying such traits in the minds of the female audience. Difficult issues such as economic empowerment and domestic violence are rarely addressed. The concept of shame associated with harassment and rape is widely perpetuated. Issues concerning the widespread exploitation of women by the hegemony of the patriarchy do not find a place in popular literature or art. The huge popularity of “digest literature” and television dramas among moderately educated women means that this genre can influence their thought process and social outlook. They see the storyline in this literature similar to the patriarchal situation in their lives and have little exposure to feminist literature or art that can inspire them to imagine an independent and economically empowered life. Due to the influential role of this literature and constructed images of women in television dramas, a negative impression is cultivated among the audience about economic empowerment. Those who work independently as entrepreneurs are portrayed as ultra-modern, western-clad women who are ignorant of family systems and norms. They are rarely shown as role models who can inspire change in society. It is not surprising that most women in Pakistan themselves have a negative perception of working women, especially if they are single and work in a male-dominated work environment. (To be Continued) Ghania Usman was formerly associated with Army Public School (Bahawalpur) and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Saud Bin Ahsen is a freelance columnist and can be reached at email@example.com.