The coronavirus pandemic has taken its toll on the employment rate of women in Bangladesh’s banking sector, causing it to drop alarmingly in the first half of this year.
The rate of female employees stood at 15.8 percent in June this year, up from 18.7 percent a year ago, according to data from Bangladesh Bank.
Senior bankers and rights activists said many female bankers quit their jobs during the pandemic in order to take better care of their families.
In addition, the females made the decision to limit 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 has mostly forced members of the opposite sex to make the harsh decision, said a private bank official who wanted to be unnamed.
Male employees usually don’t face such a situation, she said, adding that quitting a job is very frustrating for women.
The number of women employed in banks stood at 29,513 in June, an increase of 5.1 percent year-on-year.
The total number of male employees stood at 157,271 compared to 150,432 the previous year.
Syed Mahbubur Rahman, managing director of Mutual Trust Bank Limited, said a good number of women workers left their jobs during the pandemic.
Employees feared they would be infected with the coronavirus if they continued to venture out of their homes, he said.
On top of that, it was harder for women to get to their workplaces amid the strict movement restrictions imposed by the government to contain the pandemic, he said.
Some banks did not even implement work-from-home measures appropriately during the lockdown, which negatively impacted female bankers in pursuing their profession, Rahman added.
Md Arfan Ali, Managing Director of Bank Asia Limited, echoed him.
In most cases, female employees prioritized their families over their jobs, which is why some of them left their professions during the pandemic, he said.
However, he went on to hope that the number of female employees would increase in the coming days as the education rate for women increased.
The rate of employed women stood at 15.8 percent in state-owned banks in June this year, up from 18 percent a year ago.
The ratio of specialized banks rose from 15.5% to 13.7% while that of private banks rose from 18.9% to 15.7%.
Foreign banks also saw a sharp decline, with the ratio falling to 24.7% from 33%.
Emranul Huq, managing director of Dhaka Bank Limited, said they had recruited junior civil servants to different positions this year but had not been able to nominate as many women as expected.
The bank has set a target of appointing women to at least 20 percent of total entry-level jobs, but has failed to do so, he said.
“The Covid-19 crisis could have had a negative impact to this end,” Huq added.
Sadeka Halim, dean of the faculty of social sciences at Dhaka University, said many families were affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
“And the gender-specific impact of the coronavirus had been severe,” she added.
Female family members have had to take on more responsibility to tackle the coronavirus crisis, she said.
In addition, it appears that many women seeking employment do not receive financial support from their families to prepare for competitive tests for banking jobs, she said.
Halim went on to say that the banks should have taken an affirmative action approach to hire more women.
Maleka Banu, general secretary of Bangladesh central committee Mahila Parishad, said the pandemic had affected women in all sectors.
She accused some lenders of being less enthusiastic about appointing women.
Women who have succeeded in finding a job despite the obstacles now face various obstacles in order to continue practicing their profession.
“The sexual harassment and lack of required promotions ends up discouraging them from continuing,” Banu said.
In some cases, they do not receive appropriate support from family members, she added.
In this context, many of them are resigning, Banu said.
In June of this year, 16.28 percent of entry-level staff were women, but the percentage of mid-to-high level staff was 15.59 percent and 8.93 percent, respectively.