STEM has numerous graduates in Pakistan and is also one of the leading career choices that individuals make. However, since the pool of talent is ever-increasing, the government has been unable to create equal amount of opportunities to cater this resource which ultimately results in ‘brain-drain’ of talent. Engineers, scientists, mathematicians, technologists, etc. move out of Pakistan to avail lucrative opportunities abroad which gives them a fair return for their amount of hard work. This probably is the most urgent problem which requires effective policy design for STEM graduates. The current government of the country has initiated collaborative projects like the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which will make good use of our home-grown talent and there are various other opportunities like paid-internship programmes, government support for the private sector to create jobs and many more. The problem however, is these opportunities are not enough and don’t either give a fair return for the efforts of the graduates.
Another major problem is advocacy for such policies. Policy formulation and implementation, both require ardent endorsers who can gather enough support for the policy to be turned into a Bill and ultimately into an Act of law. Pakistan is a country which spends less than 4 percent of its GDP on education which includes education related to science and technology, therefore, the root of the problem is evident right from this point. This shows that the policy makers don’t have this issue on their cards and advocacy groups are unable to create a buzz about the need for policy.
STEM graduates are the need of the time. With a fast-pacing world where technological advancement gives an edge to economies and scientific research and development is an indicator of progress, Pakistan must develop and retain its resources. Although the private sector has immense opportunities for STEM graduates and there are numerous tech start-ups which are gaining attention but the government’s support is mandatory. Favourable tax policies, capital-financing schemes, employment opportunities in public corporations or government projects without quotas, etc. can bring considerable change. Apart from employment opportunities, STEM graduates need to be secured at the university-level as well. Government universities have certain provincial or gender-specific quotas defined along with competitive entrance examinations which act as a barrier for many potential “STEM-ers” to roll in. Various policies for STEM graduates, in terms of their education, employment and legislation need to be formulated, implemented and then evaluated so that it can be checked whether the policy action taken, achieved the objectives laid down in the policy statement
Be the wave you want to see
Pakistani women aspire to be among the renowned and well-informed lot of women scientists and engineers throughout the world as others. Most of them wish to pursue their Masters and Post-doctoral degrees from foreign universities at times so that they can benefit from the teaching and research methodology of the developed states. Along with this, studying abroad has its own lessons and experiences which help women become confident, independent individuals.
The most common restraint they experience in attaining their goals is financial. Shortage of funds is the most commonly cited reason for not pursuing a degree or research programme, abroad. What, however, most women need to understand is that a strong academic background and efficient communication skills can provide you the needed financials. There are numerous scholarship opportunities provided by developed countries like the UK, USA, Australia and many more.
Women need to be aware of the pros and cons of accepting scholarship opportunities. A few privately-funded scholarship opportunities can turn out be exploitative but the best ones to rely on are state-sponsored. Although there are various reliable Non-Government Organizations which sponsor students but state-led and fully-funded opportunities are preferable. State-sponsored schemes are highly competitive and only a few students are able to earn them but a major advantage of attaining them is that they relieve you off the burden of tuition fees, living and recreational expenses and many more.
Here are a few short-listed scholarship programmes which are highly reliable and are mostly state-led. These scholarships are fully-funded and are suitable for women who want to pursue (a Masters, PhD) higher education or research programme in all fields of science and technology. Every university has its own pool of scholarships as well but they come with certain terms and conditions which can turn out to be burdensome for the student in the future. These scholarships are generic, which take into account other factors than tuition fees as well. For a detailed view, you must visit the official page of each scholarship programme
Be the change you want to see
1. Geo-informatics Engineering:
Geo-informatics engineering is one of its kinds in Pakistan. It is only offered by one institute in Pakistan, that is, the National University of Sciences and Technology, Islamabad. Geo-informatics includes the study of geography, cartography and geosciences with an edge of technology. The four-year bachelor’s degree in this field enables you to analyse spatial data with geo-visualization and geo-computation.
The field has a growing scope in civil, military and commercial industry
2. Avionics Engineering:
Avionics engineering is offered by various institutes in Pakistan and is gaining a lot of popularity. This area of study enables engineers to study the electronics, software and hardware of aircrafts, space crafts and satellites. Systems like display management, communication devices, etc. fitted in the aerospace vehicle are studied in depth.
Avionics Engineers can make an excellent career in the airline industry; they can be associated with Research and Development and can also find Job opportunity in armed forces opportunities in the defense. (Not only these) Also, since a variety of subjects are taught during this four years programme, these engineers are equipped to perform as communications and electrical engineers as well.
3. Polymer and Petrochemical Engineering:
Polymer and Petrochemical engineering is recently offered by the NED University of Engineering and Technology, Karachi. This combination provides an effective base to work for the petroleum and materials industry. The degree makes use of variety of subjects ranging from basic introductory courses to polymers and petrochemicals to the physics associated with it and numerous techniques and experiments which enable practical use of the knowledge.
A degree in polymer and petro-chemical will (land the engineer) help engineers to find a job in any private or public petroleum, oil and gas firm, manufacturing sector and research and development.
4. Food Engineering:
Food engineering, I’d say, is the need of time, in Pakistan. This degree equips the engineers to deal with health and safety standards of food processing; it makes use of technical skill to provide solutions for scarcity of resources along with growing population and urbanization. Food engineering combines technology, microbiology and science to study food, food industry and its related fields.
This engineering is suitable for individuals who are interested in food industries, their health and safety checks, development of new products, research of the existing food products and sensory evaluation of food. A food engineer will find immense value for his/her degree in any private food processing, packaging or distributing firm.
5. Textile Engineering:
Textile engineering, unfortunately, is a neglected area of engineering in Pakistan. Although the degree is offered by various institutes throughout the country but it needs to be highlighted. Pakistan has a developed and growing textile industry and textile engineers are fully trained to take up the firms operations. This degree capacitates individuals to manage and develop machine parts, provide quality assurance, mange operations of a textile firm and maintenance of the overall production facility.
Bachelors in Textile engineering can help you get a job in any textile firm or in the textile departments of aerospace, bio-medical or automobile firms.
6. Bio-medical Engineering:
Bio-medical engineering has recently taken pace in Pakistan and is offered by a few renowned institutions. It provides a mix of technology, medicine and biology. A bio-medical engineer is able to understand the medical conditions and provide technical assistance or machines which can help in the treatment of the patient. They are not only prepared to develop new machines, instead they are able to work in labs and hospitals where a mix of medical knowledge and technology is needed.
Bio-medical engineers can work in hospitals, diagnostic laboratories and also firms which develop surgical, rehabilitative, orthopedic, etc. equipment.
7. Marine Engineering:
Marine engineering is an old field of study but is relatively new in Pakistan. NED is the only institute offering it on behalf of the Pakistan Marine Academy. This degree capacitates engineers to study marine vehicles with respect to the science of ocean and sea. It studies the mechanical, electronic and computer sciences aspect of the vehicles and oceanographic technology.
Marine engineers can be employed in both, the private and the public sector. Pakistan Navy, Pakistan National Shipping Corporation are major employers in the public sector but private cargo shipping firms also hire marine engineers.
8. Urban and Infrastructure Engineering:
Only a few institutes offer engineering in urban and infrastructure in Pakistan as yet but more will follow suit because it is has a growing need and demand. With increasing urbanization and population, planning of urban spaces and infrastructure has become highly wanted. This specialization enables engineers to take advantage of major aspects of civil and urban engineering. They are exposed to a detailed study of traffic, transportation, structures, water management, managerial subjects and many more.
Career prospects with this degree range from city planners and developers to private housing authority planners and developers.
9. Nanoscience and Engineering:
Nanoscience and engineering is the study of nanotechnology and its application. It prepares engineers to make the best use of nanotechnology to provide solutions for problems through research and development. The field of study is advanced and new in Pakistan. It is offered only at Masters and doctorate level so that efficient research into the area can reap greater benefits.
This engineering can help engineers make a good career in research and development, strategic organizations, private firms who want to produce nanotechnology-based products and many more.
10. Earthquake Engineering:
Earthquake engineering has only recently been launched in the country. It is offered at the Masters level only and enables engineers to study structures which can be earthquake resistant. It equips them with the skills required to design, create and evaluate structures which can be affected during earthquakes and come up with measures to minimize losses.
Earthquake engineers can be employed at urban planning departments in the public sector and can also be employed by private construction companies.
Be the change you want to see
"We cannot think of being acceptable to others until we have first proven acceptable to ourselves.”
Most women, not all; on a subconscious level believe that we are unworthy and undeserving of our own success and accomplishments. Therefore, we passively go about our careers, not considering ourselves "worthy" of praise and recognition. This Sheryl Sandberg so aptly defines as the Tiara Syndrome. Our basic inability to come to terms with our own self - recognition.
Now, most of you may not have heard of Sheryl Sandberg. And those of you that have, perhaps only know of her as the COO of Facebook. But let me assure you, she is about to change the way you see yourself and your potential as a woman in the working environment. Her most recent path to success was carved by her philanthropic book Lean In. The goal of this book is women empowerment. In her 2010 TEDTalk was an awe inspiring speech, on the ways women are held back—and the way we hold ourselves back.
Which leads me to ask the complicated question, despite drastic changes urging for women to empower each other why and how are Pakistani women holding themselves back?
More importantly; who is to be blamed for such an act? – Women themselves, Pakistani society, or a tango between the two variables?
Unfortunately, many women in Pakistan suffer from the “Tiara syndrome”. And trust me; we are not alone in our suffering. This is a worldwide phenomenon that women are suffering from.
As Glamour Magazine in May of 2006 put it, "It’s not like Glamour to admit this, but there is something that men do better than women: ask for a raise."
This is the often, sweetly flawed thinking that if we as women keep our head down in the work place, perform diligently and work amicably hard. The right person (our boss) will recognize our efforts and award us accordingly.
This naïve thought though unlikely, is possible. But (and this is a big But...) Ladies, let’s face it , having “hope” and “optimism” as a strategy in the work place, is not much of a strategy at all.
And most of you are still in denial that women suffer from the Tiara Syndrome; however in the enlightening book, “Women Don’t Ask: Negotiation and the Gender Divide,” by Linda Babcock and Sara Leschever they sum up perfectly the extreme effects of women suffering from the Tiara Syndrome.
I feel in Pakistan women suffer from mild to extreme cases of this syndrome. And while there might be a deep rooted problem in the female psyche for not asking for what we deserve. This is a problem that can be solved very easily.
After all a 10 minute uncomfortable decision for a better salary and consequently better standard of living is a small price to pay.
Firstly, you need to learn to negotiate; negotiate your salary, negotiate your working hours and negotiate your compensation and bonuses. This on face vale seems unfair. Especially, on the grounds; what most women need to negotiate to attain in Pakistan and across the globe. Men get handed freely.
However, this is just step 1 in the “Lean In” strategy described by Sheryl to empower women to achieve and rise in the workplace. I feel this point was eloquently put forward as well by Negotiating Women Inc.
Moreover, I urge Pakistani women to realize; you are not alone in your symptoms from suffering from the Tiara Syndrome epidemic. As I stated earlier, this is a worldwide phenomenon.
A study by University of California Irvine study on organizational behavior found 17 % of women felt responsibility for ensuring their salary reflected their value, while 83% of women left it to their employers to decide how much they were worth.
Jane Anderson, the executive career coach at Inside Out Training and Coaching is quoted to have said “women tend to be more collaborative and inclusive, often playing down their contributions and acknowledging others achievements”. I agree with this statement a 110% and yes, some of you readers may be thinking this, in actuality is a good and humble quality to have. I agree with that demographic of readers as well. However, this quality in the working environment is not going to be an asset to Pakistani women. Corporations that you work for mainly solely care for making profit no matter how great the working culture is. That is why it is pivotal that you OWN your skills ladies and make the most beneficial use out of YOUR abilities and qualities.
I have come up with an acronym “ P.T.S.D.” – the Pakistani Tiara Syndrome Dilemma. This is the tiara syndrome and its mutually exclusive nature in the context of Pakistan.
Whether women and young girls, feminists or anti – feminists wants to admit it or not despite the patriarchal nature of our society, women get free passes and, away with a lot more, than men do.
This is not due to men being “sleazy” but quite the polar opposite. It is because the general teachings in our society have raised men to respect women and place them in high regard. That is why, when a woman is 50 Rs short while purchasing canteen food is exempted from paying the total amount. But a man may not be so lucky. Or if a man and woman both are waiting for a rikshaw in Lahore, the man will allow the woman to take the first rikshaw and wait for the second one.
This general culture of assisting and showing courtesy to women strongly prevails in Pakistan; as chivalry is not dead in this great nation.
However, I have come across the point, which women on a subconscious level assume the same culture of chivalry shall translate into the workplace. Social politeness and professional courtesy cannot be mixed up because it will result in a working culture of biased-ness.
Therefore, I propose workshops be conducted so that women remain conscious of how to avail maximum benefits as men do; via working credentials and utilising their work experience. Not based on societal reliance of “chivalry”.
Other methods that Pakistani women can adapt to beat the Tiara Syndrome:
Iman Advice – promoting yourself may not come naturally at first, you may even feel like you are “boosting” about yourself or showing off. In order to feel less awkward while promoting yourself, you may identify the ways in which you feel comfortable being recognized. Secondly, the key here is, not to overdo it. Just like everything else in life, say and do things in moderation. Do not be on a 24/7 rant of your skills, work ethic and capabilities. Have the wisdom of differentiating and understanding;
Sense of occasion
Sense of proportion
Then, when the opportunity and time presents itself. Talk of your accomplishments. Which, in the long hall will translate into your salary.
For a more in – depth understanding of the tiara syndrome and it’s limiting women career’s I advice you read Women’s Agenda article on the matter.
Lastly ladies, understand that negotiation is an evidence – based process. Pakistani females are known to be a tad bit “jazbaathi”. You can’t after reading this, go into work the next day and say to your boss “. I demand a raise in my salary because I worked really hard this year”. This is not how the world works. You need to have substantial evidence backing your statement, and you need to understand overcoming the Tiara Syndrome in the Pakistani workplace is going to be a time consuming process.
So, just adhere to the following points further elaborated by HUFFPOST;
Vivacious. And making waves.
STEM is a male-dominated area of study and this fact does inspire a lot of girls who want to make a difference. Girls, who look up to defying the odds or breaking stereotypes, will absolutely take up a career in STEM. They do this to challenge themselves with tasks which are presumed to be ‘male-oriented’ and give exceptional performances which are noteworthy.
It is your passion along with creativity and curiosity to do something new which encourages you take up a career in STEM. This curiosity to discover things, taking up challenges and becoming innovative takes its roots from a very young age. People who are part of the girls’ immediate circle that include her family, friends and teachers are the ones who play a major role in shaping her future interests ever since she’s exposed to learning and education. There are various ways in which you can channelize her interest towards engineering, science, mathematics and technology.
Children in their early ages are more attracted towards visuals than reading text or audio. Instigating their interest in STEM at this age through videos might be a fruitful idea because it can help retain their attention for a longer period of time. Videos regarding successful women engineers, their stories, how they started and how they ended up being who they are can be inspirational. Moreover, a few videos from engineering schools alumni can be really helpful.
Site seeing and discussions
Taking your daughters for recreation to places like zoo, science museums, and their teachers can take them to factories, taking them for a city tour and showing them great engineering and architectural wonders can really help. Educating children about a few technicalities of things they see on a daily basis, for example, a bridge, roads, waste disposal facilities, recycling machines, etc. can make a lot of difference too.
Taking to science exhibitions and fairs
Various schools put in an effort to arrange science fairs and exhibitions which is an ardent initiative in itself. If taken seriously, these science fairs can help girls reap immense benefit from it. Girls at early age are enthusiastic about teamwork, creativity and craft, therefore, when these skills are directed towards a science project, they can definitely help in creating a long-term love for the field. These science fairs are not only arranged at the school-level, instead they can be community-based as well. DiscoverE, is one such US- based initiative which helps arrange activities and science fairs for children in order to develop their interest in engineering. They arrange a ‘Girls Day’ where young girls participate in teams to come up with something innovative. Such ideas can be motivating and propagate interest in STEM.
Selection of toys
Choice of toys can impact a child’s behavior, social skills and interest from an early age. Therefore, if parents wish to instigate interest for science in children, they need to change their choice of toys for them as well. There are various options in the market regarding this. Learning maths through legos, physics through experiments etc. can be fun and knowledgeable at the same time.
Making the subject creative
Most of the time children find subjects like mathematics and science boring and complex because of which it is difficult for mentors and parents to direct the girls’ interest towards it. In order to counter this challenge and create interest, they need to make the subjects interesting for them. This interest can be developed by teaching it in a creative way. For example, the class teacher can arrange experiments and design activities which help fun and science go hand-in-hand. Girls will be attracted towards such method of study and will definitely give, opting science, a thought.
Design activities which show immediate results
Building a clay volcano which shows the lava coming out of it, building a parallel circuit which helps light up the bulb, creating any mechanical machine like a pin wheel, etc. gets kids excited and curious about science. They question more about the engineering or science behind a certain result which shows that they are interested in it. Planning more similar activities will undoubtedly provoke them to study science.
Helping others through engineering
Science and engineering has helped save a lot of lives. Civil engineers, pharmaceuticals, doctors, materials engineers, chemical engineers and many more are playing their bit in making the society a better place to live. As you introspect the places around you, you will realize how dependent we are on science. Ranging from the development of a new drug to save human life to conserving the environment, people in STEM are helping others. If this thought is inculcated into girls, they will surely look up to being part of this league.
Not just for Boys
Be the change you want to see
How much have you achieved in your current job? How many monthly, annual or quarterly targets have you met? What are the major projects you undertook and your team leader commended you for your effort? You need to answer all these questions in your resume. As you progress in your job over the years, you somehow forget to update your resume. Keep track of all your major and minor achievements at work and make sure you add them to that one document which can earn you better opportunities.
Your resume is probably the most important document to help your potential employer take a glance into your professional experience, qualification and what you are capable of. There are various schools of thought on how important this document is. There are a few who believe that it is your communication and interpersonal skills which matter most, but there are others who believe that your resume is the single most important document to help you in getting a job.
Your resume might not be the single most important thing in earning you a great employment opportunity, but it is definitely something that will build up your chances of getting an interview call or creating a place in the market. It is therefore important that you pay close attention to how you build up your resume overtime.
Along with the projects undertaken at the current job, you must look for accomplishments which are beyond your current job requirement. Stay updated about the latest happenings in your area of expertise by undertaking extra courses, trainings or workshops. Stay a step ahead of what your organization has assigned you with. It is always easier to switch jobs if you have something more than ordinary on offer. Today, apps like edX, coursera, duolingo, etc. enable you to undertake online distant courses from renowned universities and learn new languages, free of cost. This can be a substantial add-on in your resume along with your current job experience.
When you start off as an entry level candidate, your resume is more focused towards your education and interests, whereas at the mid-level it is more experience-centered. Therefore, when you have been associated with a particular field over a couple of years, you list down your major accomplishments or targets achieved, in quantitative terms, within that field. Another major change is that the education section moves towards the end of the resume as you become a professional. It is your experiences which will help you stand out.
If you undertook a certain project and it earned the organization a calculable increase in revenue, etc. mention it on your resume. This makes the accomplishment prominent and noteworthy. Not only this, the skills mentioned on your resume must become more relevant to your core competencies over time. Certifications, professional examinations, etc. related to your area of expertise must be replaced by generic skills.
Building up your resume as you climb up your professional ladder is immensely important. Every target that you achieve, every skill that you enhance, every serious interest that you have deserves a place in your resume. Create it in such a way that the ten second glance which the recruiter makes at your resume is captivating enough.
Be the change you want to see.
It is definitely big news when President Obama invites Jehan Ara - President for P@SHA (Pakistan Software Houses Association for IT and ITES), and The Nest I/O, to speak at the 7th Annual Global Entrepreneurship Summit at Stanford University, California.
Jehan Ara is the face of the Pakistani IT industry, a phenomenally big name in the rising Pakistani entrepreneurial market, and a beacon of bright inspiration for Pakistani women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) fields. The said email invitation is for Jehan Ara as a panel member for discussion over a very interesting topic: "Investing in South Asia: "What's Next for Entrepreneurship in India, Pakistan, and Beyond," and Jehan Ara is the ideal candidate for this job.
Even Obama invites Jehan Ara!!
The Women Engineers Pakistan has always been proud of Jehan Ara. She has been a role model for numerous women in Pakistan, a pioneer paving the way for others and a leader lighting the path ahead for new comers. The fact that Obama invites Jehan Ara to represent Pakistan, and that The White House is fully aware of her capabilities is nothing short of fantastic in the progress picture for the country.
Now What Though?
Rising tide of Young Entrepreneurs in Pakistan
Pakistan is now home to one of the world’s largest populations of young people. As per Peace & Conflict Monitor, Pakistan is among some of the very young counties, some of them with "..two-thirds of their populations under the age of thirty." The population of the country is about 200 million people, and imagine how much this can be worth when 70 percent of them are within the age group of 25-30. Jehan Ara has always been a proponent of fresh ideas and we are sure she will be highlighting this asset. As we can see from the Population Pyramid Youth Bulge for Pakistan by the US Bureau of Census, the USA is not unaware of Pakistan's young potential. And the Global Entrepreneurship Summit is the perfect place for a nice little refresher.
Jehan Ara leads P@SHA, and The Next I/O, both of which are directly linked with a large number of young Pakistani entrepreneurs. Having their best interests at heart, Jehan will most probably try to direct international interests toward investment in various Pakistani start-ups. Maybe pitching ideas like Virtual Speed Dating, or Shark Tank mock-ups might help.
Visa Issues for Pakistani Entrepreneurs
Undoubtedly, this is the most problematic avenue for most Pakistanis. The US Department of State seems to be a bit more stringent on policies for a Pakistani passport. Inviting more entrepreneurs from this country can greatly benefit the USA on frontiers of growth and diversity. Who knows, it might even help put an end to extremist stereotypes.
Growth of Female Entrepreneurs
The USA has always been an avid supporter of women empowerment. Pakistan offers a whopping statistic of 50% women in its population. Directing interests towards the growth of women can help nurture better support for future generations. As she herself said,
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Be the change you want to see.
Turkey and Iran are two of the front-liners when it comes to progress of Muslim majority countries in STEM fields. When it comes to futuristic progress, STEM study in Turkey and Iran enable these countries to take a lead on the global scale, and a developing country like Pakistan can benefit tremendously from following in their footsteps.
What’s pleasantly surprising is the fact that Turkey’s progress is quite rapidly evolving in STEM. In fact, Turkey is ahead of some western states when it comes to the participation of women in the arena of STEM.
The ode to women’s rise in STEM goes to the Turkish women themselves as they empower each other to progress in the field of STEM on an individual, societal and communal level. And for those of us witnessing this epicenter of change for them, it’s like a breath of fresh air.
WEI is one such non- profit organization that is empowering women to boldly step forward in the art of STEM. The mission of IEEE WEI is to “facilitate the recruitment and retention of women in technical disciplines globally. IEEE WIE envisions a vibrant community of IEEE women and men collectively using their diverse talents to innovate for the benefit of humanity.”
IEEE's implementation in Turkey is likely to emancipate women from the societal chained mind-set that females are not to enter the field of STEM; (at least seriously) or in terms of a long term profession.
This shift of the tectonic plates of the mind is what is causing Turkey to rise, like a phoenix from the ashes, in the field of STEM. And the proof is in the pudding; according to the Muslim science website; Task Force Essay: STEM Education and the Muslim Gender Divide the amount of women in engineering is declining in the U.S., while it is improving in other countries. For example, the U.S. is behind thirteen Muslim countries in the percentage of women graduating with STEM degrees, including Turkey. Moreover, a study titled Women in Engineering, Science, Technology and Mathematic; by Kristine De Welde, from Florida Gulf Coast University and Sandra Laursen and Heather Thiry from the University of Colorado at Boulder, shows that around the world Turkey and Greece both have twice as many graduates for BS and PhD in physics than the US. Reinforcing that viewpoint, Turkish organizations like FeteMM are on the yellow brick road to success in the subject of STEM.
In this manner, the Turkish unique blend of old and new applied in STEM is really working. Pakistan should follow in their footsteps by merging historical culture and modernity simultaneously to take women’s progression forward. This can be done by adopting methods from the west but customizing them to suit the historical values of Pakistan.
Readers, when I said Iran has taken the world by storm it was not a statement to be taken lightly. According to the post mentioned above, 60 percent of university students in Iran are women, and women comprise 70 percent of the science graduates. Thus, Iranian women are more educated than their American and Pakistani counterparts, at least as far as STEM are concerned.
An article by Forbes/ Entrepreneur’s illustrates “The common myth about women in Iran is that they are seen, but not heard, that they’re not permitted to drive, that they are second-class citizens, and that entrepreneurship and positions of power are out of reach. These notions are wrong.” And I could not agree with this statement more.
As I write this article I am overcome by emotions of gratitude and a feeling of 'awe' towards the Iranian women who are breaking stereotypes left, right and centre. Did I say break? I meant utterly shattering the ego of chauvinistic men who have failed in preventing women from progressing in STEM As Doctor Peyvadni said “It’s a historic change.”
This can be seen in the fact that Iranian women are now entering the male dominated field of technology and blooming in the tech business. For those women reading this article in Pakistan this is not your typical article where I will just go on a pessimistic rant about how other Muslim nations are excelling, such as the progressive STEM study in Turkey and Iran, while we just sit behind and watch as the world and is women progress and we stand at a standstill, NO!
What can Pakistan learn from STEM Study in Turkey and Iran:
Identification of areas where Pakistan is lagging behind:
Methods of Improvement:
Lets let the progress of STEM study in Turkey and Iran be an example for aspiring women scientists in Pakistan, but only if the above mentioned changes are implemented - rather than just be written and talked about - can the female population of Pakistan progress in similar fashion to the nations of Iran and Turkey.
“If we’re going to out-innovate and out-educate the rest of the world, we’ve got to open doors for everyone. We need all hands on deck, and that means clearing hurdles for women and girls as they navigate careers in science, technology, engineering, and math.” – Michelle Obama, First Lady of the US.
Vivacious. And making waves.
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.
Role model – a person you aspire to be, a person you look up to, an individual that may or may not have influenced the world at large but has influenced you.
Role models serve as an example that if you work hard enough, in this often unfair world where the odds are almost never in your favor (yes, I used a Hunger Games reference) you can be recognized for trying to make a difference. More importantly, however, you can be recognized for making that difference.
A role model is by no means perfect. They make mistakes, have flaws, but despite their apparent short comings, role models have one thing in common – they motivate the individual to better themselves by stepping outside the traditional boxed mindset of the world.
Despite contrary beliefs, living in Pakistan I have many female role models: my mother, Fatima Jinnah, Nergis Mavalvala, Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy - even Maria. B makes the list- and many, many more.
Now you may be thinking these women all belong to different periods in history, are a merge of past, present, future and have entirely different backgrounds and fields in which they have excelled. From politics to fashion designing. So, how can one person have such a diverse range of role models?
My answer is simple. The commonality that all these ladies hold, and the value that I cherish the most, is the fact that they broke stereotypical barriers in society and the international community. They did this by not only questioning the status quo related to the role of women in society but, making a reference to Taylor Swift, by “[building] a castle out of all the bricks [society threw at them]” when it said “no, you cannot do that”. Well, these women went ahead and did it anyway; and in doing so succeeded not only the men in the field, but the community at large.
That is why on a personal level I find it very upsetting to discover many Pakistani female scientists featured in the curriculum just do not exist! The educational curriculum in Pakistan does not list or name ANY female scientists as examples or role models. This is true whether the subject is Pakistan Studies, History or even Social Studies. Something I find particularly horrific is the fact that not only government schools, but both private and public sector schools as well, exclude biographies, names, and achievements of Pakistani female scientists from their syllabus.
This saddening fact resulted in me interviewing a few primary and secondary school teachers and asking them the gut wrenching question
- Why doesn't the education system feature female scientists in curriculum or education syllabus?
Mariam Khan had this to say –
“The historical absence of women in mainstream scientific records because of their gender ineligibility leaves young girls unaware of great female scientists who they can look up to or idolize. Science textbooks are found to convey gender biases through images of boys/men in white lab-coats or also the gender bias language found such as "him/he". When girls are developing their interests in school, it becomes clear that science is a boys-only subject. Textbooks also fail to mention female scientists, which can be understood by the historical absence of acknowledging women within the science academia. The mention of accomplished female scientists in textbooks can help encourage women to develop a passion in science subjects.”
Shafaf Kayani - A teacher at "Kids and Co" play and preschool had this to say -
" They ( Female scientists) are not included on the basis that their scientific works and research are not promoted and are undermined. It is believed that students must be aware of the men scientists and their works because of a certain mindset. This mindset not only undermines the female scientists and their contributions to science but also undermines the interest of female students.
Never in my teaching experience I have heard a female saying she wants to be a scientist."
Just a quick point to note:
Before everyone goes on a bashing rant that Pakistan is the only nation to completely isolate women scientists from the educational syllabus let me be clear that this is not the case.
Firstly, although many developed nations such as United States of America, Russia, China and Canada may include female scientists in curriculum, the current space that is being given to female scientists in the curriculum could further be expanded.
In comparison to the developed world, Pakistan may not give voice to female scientists in its curriculum, however, this is partly rectified by teachers in normal class room discussions. Oftentimes in these discussions Tasneem Zehra Hussain, Doctor Saima Rasheed and Professor Bina Shaheen Siddiqui become frequent names.
In fact, at the recent Froebel’s graduating class of 2016 the guest speaker invited by the school was Professor Bina Shaheen Siddiqui. This example was just of a high school. As a further example of this, The National University of Science and Technology (NUST) has an article titled “Women in Science” in their "I R Nustian" blog made by their NUST Science Society which highlights the roles of women in science.
This in itself illustrates that the gaps which exist in terms of school curriculum are being ameliorated while exchanging general knowledge in class discussions between student and teacher. Therefore, the vacuum in the educational syllabus criteria is by no means reflective of the statement that female scientists in Pakistan are not valued. In actuality, one of the greatest assets we, as citizens of Pakistan, possess are our female scientists and their exemplary achievements in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
Moreover, we are living in a world where people learn and interact mainly via social media. In many Pakistani universities students get exposure to Pakistani female scientists and their work via blogs, national newspaper articles and other social media platforms such as twitter, Facebook, slide-share presentations and so on.
For example, the blog “Speech of Pakistan” has an article dedicated to elaborating and glorifying the female scientist success stories of our society. This goes to show that the educational curriculum in Pakistan is no longer generic in nature ( at least on a university level). This pointedly, given that a student is allowed to study and explore different role models and success stories which may sidetrack from the traditional bandwagon of conventional topics, people and field/s of study. Then why are there no female Scientists in Curriculum for the young minds of Pakistan to take inspiration from?
Some of you readers may think I am exaggerating or sugar coating the importance our government gives in respecting and honoring our female scientist, and it may very well be true. The syllabus in Pakistan does not represent or list female scientists and their contributions. However, I recently came across the Pakistan Council of Science and Technology official website, which has dedicated a whole page and area to female scientists in Pakistan. Additionally it has made it easier for these teachers to be hired by universities and schools.
This leads me to conclude that our society, despite being male dominated, encourages, empowers and represents female scientists in a proud and courageous light.
The fault lies in the institutions,
Newton’s Third Law : Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.
If only these academic institutions understood the effects that the lack of female representation in science textbooks can have they would think twice before not including women scientists.
For example, if female scientists are not represented in the syllabus it will likely have a direct impact on female participation in science related activities. This in the long run will further limit females entering careers in the field of science.
As Mariam Khan so eloquently put it “Science, like history and art have been run by academies or councils which determined who from the related field could be a member. Throughout history, these governing bodies were male dominated and denied women access.”
I could not agree with her statement more, sadly, the educational institutions by either being too lazy, too corrupt, or male dominated has simply not bothered to alter the education curriculum. They are failing to meet the mentality of this generation of Pakistani citizens. We need to feature our very talented Pakistani Female Scientists in the curriculum for our future generations to take inspiration from. Citizens which take pride in their female scientists and see them as role models breaking barriers, pushing boundaries, leading by example and changing the world, one step towards science at a time.
Vivacious. And making waves.
“Intimidation, harassment and violence have no place in a democracy.” - Mo Ibrahim.
Workplace harassment in Pakistan is a FACT.
Harassment is a major issue in the workplace and it affects millions of workers, especially in Pakistan. Most people here know what "harassment" means, however their ideas are vague on the different types of harassment that exist. Therefore, let me first slightly elaborate on the different types of harassment that exist.
I find women to be the soul of every nation and with the great paradigm shift in the process of globalization, women are entering the market place more rapidly than ever before. This is forming an empowering symbol of what women can do at work, not just at home, through the utilization of their skilled work and innate talent.
Unfortunately, there are a few grotesque vultures that have taken the development of women entering the workplace as a window to promote and perform violence and mistreatment against women. Whether the reason for this is to halt women from progressing in society or whether it is the simple inability of some men to control their desires in the workplace, it is an act strongly condemned in Pakistan and there is no rational or irrational justification for harassment of women at work.
This is precisely why one can state there is no doubt that workplace harassment is real and not a myth in Pakistan, South Asia and across the world.
Research was carried out in Europe by UNISON in 2008 which estimates that up to 50% of female employees in European Union countries have experienced sexual harassment. This is an appalling number.
However, the honesty that prevails in these research results reflects the societal mindset in European countries, where people are open to talk about harassment, file a case, and have the culprit face the consequences.
Unfortunately, workplace harassment in Pakistan, and especially in the smaller cities or villages, is seen as a “taboo” topic. A topic which, if brought up, is considered to leave a tainted mark on the honor of a woman, despite the harassment not being her fault. This is why most Pakistani women do not report their case of workplace harassment.
Additional reasons for workplace harassment going unreported are mentioned below:
However, despite the issue of workplace harassment in Pakistan being seen as a "taboo" topic, surprisingly the government of Pakistan, NGO’s and citizens of Pakistan have come together over the last seven years to conceptually and pragmatically put an end to harassment; or at least implement ways to end workplace harassment.
In 2010 “The Protection against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act” was signed by President Asif Ali Zardari. Turning this bill into law was a huge step for the nation. This law gave women such as me the mental peace of knowing that if such an incident occurred at the workplace, I could protect myself from the culprit under this law.
From a local lens, one of the few NGO’s to this end that exist in Pakistan is called AASHA – the word itself means “Hope”. A hope to root out harassment, especially of women, from society.
This NGO’s aim, like many other such NGO’s in Pakistan, is to raise awareness on the issue of harassment and assist the government and private sectors in the creation of a society free of sexual harassment. This, I feel, is a great step towards changing Pakistani mentality and eradicating the disease of harassment from our societal environment.
A working paper was recently published by Munir Moosa Sadruddin titled “Sexual Harassment at Workplace in Pakistan- Issues and Remedies about the Global Issue at Managerial Sector”
This paper articulately addresses the implementation of women rights in Pakistan and the harassment faced by women in the workplace, as well as the practical implementation of the Bill of 2010. Which *spoiler alert*, without implementation value just seems like a piece of paper.
Before, we discuss the practical implementation of bills and laws passed in Pakistan, I made a brief timeline to illustrate the events pertaining to sexual harassment in Pakistan.
Year 2010 :
If you would like further detailed information on these laws and bills passed kindly visit Tracking Laws: Protection against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act.
Readers, as you can tell from the timeline, on paper it seems Pakistan is more than efficiently tackling the problem of workplace harassment; however, as the article by Express Tribune suggests, the practical implementation of laws against workplace harassment is weak in nature.
The question that arises then is what is the long term solution to eliminate workplace harassment in Pakistan?
And in my perspective the solution rests in educating the people of Pakistan. We as a community must step up and make the change. Those reading this article need to understand one point: here is the cure. We can all make a difference which will together form a chain reaction, catalyzing the removal of this pesky weed of harassment from the beautiful garden that is our society.
Leave talking; Start doing-
Here are a list of simple steps you can implement to end harassment in Pakistan:
Lastly, do not shy away from talking about this topic. In the event of harassment reporting your case, remember that it is YOUR “haqq”, YOUR right granted to you by your state, by your religion, by the fact that YOU are a human being. Who knows if in being brave you are helping other women to step forward and be strong as well, and perhaps in the process, preventing someone else from being harassed.
Useful Youtube Links; you are not alone..
Vivacious. And making waves.