Contemporary trade policy has been driven by an apparent consensus regarding the employment-related benefits of economic openness and export-led growth that often ignores their dispersion by sector and gender. Whilst trade may be an enabling mechanism for the most capable workers in formal sectors, it may also exclude or relegate others to less visible informal workplaces.

To appreciate the processes and perceptions underlying these differential outcomes, this research paper investigates the stories of Pakistani women as workers, farmers and entrepreneurs across a range of economic sectors. Through this lens we supplement the literature that focuses on the structure of trade and the economy by the thoughts of female participants themselves.

We identify systematic but often hidden obstacles to female employment and entrepreneurial opportunities across the entire socioeconomic spectrum. These include visible issues (such as capacity building) as well as less but equally important visible ones (such as implicit institutional bias). We find these are manifest not only in terms of human capacity building but effective capacity utilisation. This paper thereby offers insights into the complexities of gender-related aspects of employment and trade.

Author Biography

Dr. Maryam Tanwir is an affiliated lecturer at the Centre of development studies, Cambridge, and runs the Gender and development course for the MPhil development studies.Her recent research and professional responsibilities have focused on International development, politics of governance and gender relations. She has worked as gender consultant for the World Bank for the Pakistan Trade and Investment policy program. Prior to that she worked as an evaluation consultant for the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Rome, Italy. She also worked as a gender consultant for the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), in Rome, Italy. The work focused on evaluation of the development initiatives of these organizations with a focus on gender, poverty, institutional efficiency and economic growth. Prior to her PhD she worked as urban economist for government of Punjab, in Pakistan. She has also worked as a research associate for the Anti-Money Laundering Project for the World Bank.

Dr. Richard Sidebottom is an affiliated lecturer at the Centre of Development Studies, Cambridge, and teaches in African Studies, Development Studies, Land Economy and the Institute of Continuing Education. His research interests include rural development, entrepreneurship, agricultural commodity markets and renewable energy in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Richard is a research consultant on the TIGR2ESS (Transforming India’s Green Revolution by Research and Empowerment for Sustainable food Supplies) research project funded by the Global Challenges Research Fund. He holds a PhD and MPhil in Development Studies from the University of Cambridge, an MSc in Finance from London Business School and an MA in History and Economics from the University of Oxford. Prior to Cambridge, Richard worked for over 20 years as an emerging markets fund manager in London and Singapore.