Whenever we think of an engineer or scientist, a male figure comes to our mind. The thought doesn't seem ironic because the belief is embedded in our society. There are no platforms where women technologists can present their issues, leading to a severe need for exceptional advocacy for Pakistani Women Scientists. This is not only true for developing countries like Pakistan but a stereotypical phenomenon experienced in the developed countries of the world as well.
Pakistan has a growing pool of female scientists and engineers, however, the bias persists. Men still dominate STEM related fields at the places of work. Women scientists and engineers, who graduate from renowned institutions, later don’t participate in the workforce, evading the purpose of their education. Social, cultural, legislative and various other factors contribute towards their non-participation which, if dealt pragmatically, can increase the number of women scientists and engineers who contribute towards the success of this country. It is imperative that the country's government and policy-makers accept the gaping lack in required advocacy for Pakistani women scientists and technologists more seriously!
Although the trend is changing and women today are aspiring to take their careers much more seriously, they still have culturally-expected roles to fulfill. A woman, even if working, is expected to give priority to her household and domestic issues. Moreover, she is expected to execute them with the same vigour as her work. It is mostly because of this role-expectation that she withdraws from the idea of making the best out of her education. What needs to be countered is the idea that household responsibilities should be female-centered only. It should be the duty of both, man and woman, to equally cater for the needs of their house, family and career. We do not expect culture changes to happen overnight, but we do expect policy-makers to recognize the need for advocacy for Pakistani women scientists and engineers and take steady measures to impart more security to women in workplace, which could lead to better workplace environment. If the laws for workplace harassment regulated more stringently, more families can feel comfortable with the idea of a working woman.
Maternity laws for working women have been recognized since 1958 in Pakistan but these laws became part of the provincial domain after the 18th Amendment in the constitution. As a federal law, working women are allowed a period of six weeks pre- and post-natal paid leave. They are also protected against job dismissal during this period and are provided benefits for covering the cost of child delivery. Recently, the provinces have also taken this issue seriously and in maintaining the essence of the federal law, essential legislation has been provided. The problem, however, is the implementation of this law. Various commercial and industrial firms deny women the legally protected benefits to which they are entitled. Women need to be made aware of such laws in order to make them less likely to give up their engineering and scientific skills on account of motherhood.
Need for Advocacy for Pakistani Women Scientists??
In a society like Pakistan, where laws for protecting women are still termed as 'un-Islamic' and are not legislatively sound, it is evident that there is much to be done. Especially in the field of science and technology which is male-dominated, women have higher concerns. The Protection of Women Against Harassment at the Workplace Act came up in 2010 and was also further amended as per the conditions. However, the problem persists. Women empowerment remains limited due to concerns against exploitation and their culturally-embedded fear of male dominance. It is therefore, the mindset and opinion of the general public that needs a shift. Women need to pursue their area of interest regardless of any fear in their mind. They must realize that indeed, they have all the power to be the leading engineers, technologists and scientists of the world.
Be the change you want to see.