We had the privilege of speaking to Engr. Dr. Maria Riaz, a truly stellar engineer from Pakistan who has shattered glass ceilings and reached all the way to Google. Maria graduated from NUST (MCS Rawalpindi) as a software engineer, and later received a PhD from North Carolina State University. She is a true role model in both academic and career streams, and her story is sure to inspire many more superstar women in STEM fields from Pakistan. Following is Maria's story, and her very inspiring message to the women both already in the field and those aspiring to join in:
"I grew up in a closely knit family with two sisters and one brother. The strong bond that I have with my family is a blessing and provides me with a lot of positive reinforcement. I am thankful that growing up, I was never compared with others and was rather expected to do the best I can in a given situation. This has helped me feel empowered to learn and grow without any external constraints.
My favorite subjects in school were Mathematics and Physics. I was always encouraged to develop an understanding of the subject over rote memorization. Later in undergrad, I really enjoyed logical reasoning and programming related courses. All of these provided a strong foundation for analytical thinking and problem solving. The knowledge itself, but more so the underlying skills to understand the requirements and constraints of a given situation and figure things out, definitely helps in day to day situations.
Growing up in Pakistan, we are not exposed to a lot of the career options that are out there. I was motivated to be an engineer as I felt inclined towards subjects and concepts that are closely associated with engineering. This was not the most popular choice for girls and many individuals encouraged me to choose a different career path. Initially, the biggest barrier was that people were constantly questioning my choice and I had to justify why I would rather not be a doctor or something deemed more suitable for women. I think it is important to realize that engineering is not one profession, there are many options available and many type of career paths and job opportunities to meet different types of interests within engineering. There is room for everyone to explore their individual strengths and passion when choosing a STEM career.
I am thankful to have had strong role models in all walks of life, be at home, school or as part of other social / professional interactions. I feel inspired by individuals who are kind and compassionate as providing a little encouragement and reassurance can go a long way.
I think it is very important to have a support network as no one individual has all the answers. The most trusted way to create a support network is to be of support to others where and when you can. I would like to see newcomer girls, and all newcomers in general, to develop strategies that help them be resilient in the face of challenges and not be afraid to seek guidance and opportunities that can lead to personal growth and excellence."
Who inspired you to STEM forward?
Do you know any extraordinary Woman in Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, and Medicine? Help us Nominate Role Models for the coming generation!
Are you a woman in engineering? Or rather, are you a woman affiliated with any of the fields within the umbrella of science, technology, engineering, medicine and/or math? If yes, chances are you know how it feels to be a minority. Chances are you have been told you aren't made for engineering, that it's a field suitable only for boys, or that you shouldn't get the job as you'll leave when you get married (we know, duh!! We know..)
Here's the thing: We as women can either buy in to that narrative, and sit down - or we can change the narrative and reclaim this space.
June 23rd 2018 is the International Women in Engineering Day (trending as INWED). Here's our chance to turn the mic right back on. In 2018, the INWED theme is 'Raising The Bar'. Its time to show the world how you are raising the bar in STEM, and how your amazing work is paving way for new-coming women in STEM. Let's show them how your participation and existence matters. We created a few selfie cards for you. Download whichever you like most (or create your own), and share it on social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.) with the following hashtags:
#IlookLikeAnEngineer #WomenEngineersPakistan #WomenInScience #WomenInEngineering #WomenInSTEM #INWED18 #RaisingTheBar
Or grab a pen and write your own message:
And to our male allies: Your support is vital to the movement. Show support for women engineers by distributing these cards in the hallways of your office, classrooms, schools, colleges, universities and professional networks. Get people talking, start the conversation. The above cards are perfect to distribute among young people and get them interested about science, technology, engineering, math, medicine, and of course, art!
Today, women are struggling to perform in the still-very-male-dominated technological realm. Its not like the actual work is difficult for us; the ‘real’ challenge is to stay in harmony with the prevalent (and sometimes toxic) office environment. As a fresh appointee or even as a senior staff member, many women feel that they stood secluded, completed their work quietly, and remained non-verbal on office matters for quite a long time. Most feared that they would be labeled as uncooperative or bossy if they spoke out.
If a woman thinks a project can be better accomplished in a certain way, it's been generally noticed that she doesn’t speak up for her idea. Normally, as has been generally seen, and especially in our culture, she waits for others to present their points. She fears that her idea might be incorrect, or that she might be considered dictatorial. As a result of this behavior, not only her career is directly effected, but indirectly, the efficiency of the company goes down tremendously. One solution to this is to activate strong allies at the work place.
Most women report that when they were finally vocal on a technical project, and the male boss or male counterparts did not quite agree, they took the disagreement almost as an ego problem. For such men, it is time to understand that diversity in any field at both, institutional and personal levels, is vital for the progress of the company and its work. It is important for a workplace to have different members with diverse emotional intelligence and various technical interests. Sabotaging this multiplicity for personal validation harms not only the individuals involved, but also the company, and the society on the whole. Fortunately, the need of the day is DYNAMIC team work.
Sounds silly that we should be even saying this to adults, but men at workplaces need not see women as a threat towards their own aptitude. There is no need to be ashamed if and when a woman colleague achieves something bigger for the company. Women on the other hand need to stop camouflaging themselves within their emotional shell; rather they should celebrate their success together with all male and female colleagues. Culture of seeking help from colleagues in times of need should be integrated within the organizational fabric, inhibitions should be diminished. Any company can be more productive if it welcomes new ideas and fresh mindsets, instead of sticking to outdated techniques.
Why are allies necessary at workplaces?
The bottom-line is this: This is not a man vs. woman debate. Equality cannot be achieved without support from men. At workplaces, if progress is desired, then men who think a woman colleague is sound in her particular decision, need to voice their agreement out loud. Also, especially whilst in a tech-oriented discussion, when a man feels that the female colleague knows the point of conversation better, he should acknowledge it at large. If an equally qualified woman applies for a job, there are no justifiable grounds to deny her the job based on her gender. If a woman gets harassed in the workplace, there should be zero forbearing for harassment. Period. Inequality just cannot be tolerated anymore. Men need to speak out if they witness discrimination against a female colleague. Trust us, this helps!!
How can one be your ally
An ally who boosts your confidence. Not all people are bold enough to simply walk up to a colleague and ask: “Hey! Will you be an ally to me, here in the office?” It’s a deep-seated global fear. If a woman feels hesitance in speaking out loud in an open discussion, one way for her to be heard is to discuss her ideas with a friendly colleague, male or female. Having done so, she can dispel a little bit of that fear of dismissal, as she would now know that when she does finally speak up, this particular ally will support it. With time, a woman can become comfortable being assertive, as she gains confidence that her ally (and hopefully, allies) are by her side. Like all other life’s relations, this relationship can only be built on trust, positivity, and responsibility.
An ally who helps you out from sticky work situations. When stuck in work, most women generally feel shy to seek advice from colleagues. But most tech projects are greatly challenging, and require quite a lot of R&D. When one is already doing the hard work, then along with all the brainstorming there should be no shame in asking a colleague for help. An experienced colleague can help and mentor a junior for the next big tasks. Not only does reaching out helps solve the current problem, it also creates a healthy and nurturing work environment. Most women noticed that once the initial conversational hesitance was bridged, they were able to get more involved in the larger picture of the organization through conferences and discussions etc., and were able to progress faster.
An ally who stands by you in time of need. Good manners are the key to all that which repels evil. But sometimes, one has to confront people, especially if one is a woman being harassed by a colleague. While this may not be the first choice many women make; asking the harasser, "What do you mean?" can help make the snide remarks or lewd comments more visible. Until recently, the norm has been that whenever a woman gets bullied / harassed, the first blame goes to the woman, regarding her as “guilty”. A solution to this is to make allies who can be relied upon for their help in such a situation. Sometimes organizations have policies for conflict management, whereby they provide moderators for arbitrations. Having allies who can testify about your self can be a valuable asset in such cases.
Stand out, be brave!
So, to wrap up:
Dear male colleagues,
And, if you see something, say something!
Engr. Ayesha Alam Khurram
Be brave to challenge the norm you can’t digest.
An event to celebrate and advance Women in Technology within Pakistan.
The second WEP Zonal conference shall be held on December 14th, 2017 at Lahore College for Women University. We are bringing female Role Models in STEM for you to learn from. There are sessions regarding the ingredients of a Winning Resume, the importance of following your passion, and opportunities for working from home.
Introducing our Speakers:
Miss Shaista Ali is a Forensic Chemistry wiz. She is a lecturer at GCU, Lahore and is also working towards a PhD. Shaista is definitely a Role Model!
Syed M. Salman Mehdi is a wizard with much magic. Get motivated, come join us on December 14th!
Engr. Anum Tariq will be talking about her experience with Women Engineers Pakistan, and how best to shape your career ladder towards progress. Engineers, look forward to this talk: Anum is a definite ROLE MODEL!
Engr. Usman Muhammad Ali will be speaking on "Work from Home: How is this Culture going to work for women in Pakistan?"
Our very own Engr. Jawad Ali will be co-presenting a workshop on "The Best CV Ever! + Some Interview Tips".
Get to meet our Founder!
Engr. Ramla Qureshi, Founder & CEO of WEP, will be giving Diversity Training: "How to work in a multi-cultural, multi-gendered, multi-everything work environment."
Hope to see you soon!
An event to recognize Women Engineers Pakistan supporters in the presence of successful role models.
The event will cover:
- Founder WEP meet and greet with team
- Key note speaker talks from industry and corporate (Speakers and topics will be release soon, keep following)
- Speed Networking
- Skill building sessions on:
Opportunities to apply
Meet Our Speakers:
Meet our Founder:
Our Pioneering member, Engr. Anum Tariq Khan spoke at the STEMinists of Pakistan: Overcoming Barriers | Lahore event organized by British Council Pakistan on October 28th, 2017.
The organizers ensured that the discussion would focus "..not only on challenges that women face while working in science and technology but will cover some tips on how they can become indispensable to the industry, make a mark in their workplaces and have the same progression as their male counterparts. For young girls and women interested in STEM fields, it can be difficult to find women who are established within these fields."
Anum spoke about the enablers and barriers for Pakistani women within #STEM fields. Anum's passion for the cause has shown through all three years of her work with Women Engineers Pakistan. For WEP's "Science for Progress" initiative, she has spoken to many young high school girls about the importance of education as a whole, and about STEM in detail. She has also spoken at national level to policy makers within the Higher Education Commission (HEC) and industry, regarding current issues that women face within engineering academia and industry. Anum has led many student-industry linkage events, and has conducted various field-trips for prospective female engineers to different STEM firms. She is also a part of IEEE Women in Engineering, and constantly works for promoting and empowering women.
Engr. Jawad is also a pioneering member of WEP. He has been one of our very strong male allies for the cause, and is constantly working with us to promote and encourage more women in STEM fields. Jawad has gone through all the processes involved in the WEP experience, has participated in multiple outreach sessions towards girls schools in underprivileged areas, conducted various empowerment seminars for grooming of university students, and is currently a mentor for the current campus ambassadors across the country.
Progressing Women in STEM
Here's to Girl Power!
Our ER manager, Engr. Yusra Shah represented #Pakistan and Women Engineers Pakistan at the Global Women In Leadership Economic Forum (WIL Forum) in Dubai. Yusra met with HRH Princess Tessy Antony of Luxembourg, who gave an amazing message; "Pakistan is incredibly resourceful country, and you have lots of opportunities, so don't give up! Even if from time to time it is hard, and you are being pushed down, just push back! You can do it, and I am with you!" #womenInSTEM #WomenInTech#WomenEngineersPakistan
Progressing women in STEM
The US - Pakistan Centers for Advanced Studies in Energy, in collaboration with Arizona State University, NUST, UET, Women Engineers Pakistan and Higher Education Commission Pakistan conducted a three day workshop on the topic of "Awareness and Strategy Building for Gender Equity in Engineering". This workshop was aimed towards the faculty and graduate students of engineering universities, and addressed a wide array of difficult topics, including "a session with secondary school career counselors, an HEC-led session on sexual harassment, an HEC-led session on general leadership skills, and several sessions on scholarly advancement." In addition to these, several different sessions were conducted where members of WEP expressed their work, expertise, and experiences in either a group panel or individually.
This workshop was a step forward towards documenting the current status of women within STEM fields in Pakistan. It helped create awareness of gender inequity in STEM, and drew attention to the probable solutions, policy changes, and strategies that could help mitigate this gender gap. Dr. Chad Haines from Arizona State University championed the workshop, leading multiple panels such as; "Defining the Parameters of Gender Issues in Pakistan", "Professional Development and Gender Equity", and "Identifying Obstacles to Gender Equity" etc.
WEP ER Manager, Ms. Yusra Shah introduced the audience to the progress made by Women Engineers Pakistan as an organization, and implored upon the vast amount of work that is still to be done in order to achieve gender parity within the STEM fields. The first session was a round-table discussion that broadly discussed the various different challenges faced by women in engineering. WEP Professional member Ms. Saliha Akram presented a perspective of women engineers in the field, and shed light to the career choices made by women, and challenges they face in pursuing their profession. Student members, and WEP Campus Ambassadors also conducted a panel discussion highlighting back on the challenges of women students studying engineering, and the apprehensions they already face for the practical world while still at school.
WEP Member Experience:
WEP member Rawash Asif expressed her experience as, "It has been a great experience attending the workshop, on ‘Gender Equity in Engineering’ organized by USAID, as one of the campus ambassadors of Women Engineers Pakistan where I had a chance to speak about the special challenges women face in studying and opting for engineering fields, at the national forum. I am enthused and honored to have shared my university experience with the people from different streams, different branches, different academic years and especially with the university administrators and professors who listened to the issues addressed by me. Overall, it was a very well organized and very successful workshop where I met with many faculty members and MS students and had a chance to interact with them. I truly thank WEP for supporting and believing in me."
WEP member Ayesha Mehboob said, "Attending the ‘Gender Equity’ workshop organized by USAID and ASU in collaboration with NUST and UET Peshawar was a great experience. It provided me a stage for sharing personal experience, concerns with the faculty members and administrators of various universities and to stand up for the issues and obstacles other girls are facing in STEM field. The Question and Answer session with such an intellectual and active audience helped me to make my points clear. I also got the chance to interact with the representatives of ASU, USAID, Professors and students from the different fields which helped me to expand my professional network. Speaking in front of so many people for the first time was a confidence booster for me.
Overall it was a great learning experience. I would like to thank USAID for their invitation and hospitality and WEP for trusting me with the huge responsibility to discuss the sensitive issue of the society and for the moral support."
WEP Pioneering member, Ms. Anum Tariq noted, "It has been a great experience attending the workshop on " Gender Equity in Engineering" organized by USAID, as one of the campus ambassador of Women Engineers Pakistan which was an attempt by me to put a limelight towards the issues i faced in my past and present so other girls in STEM, thanks to WEP for providing this platform to raise our voice in front of influenced people and policy makers. It was also very great experience to meet other campus Ambassadors, Faculty members and Masters Students."
Similarly, WEP Pioneering member Shayan Abdurrauf said, "It has been a great experience attending the workshop, on ‘Gender Equity in Engineering’ organized by USAID, as one of the campus ambassadors of Women Engineers Pakistan where I could take a stand for the women who face issues in their engineering degree and professional life, as i always wanted to highlight the challenges girls faced in my university especially due the male gender of their class and university in order to change the childish and cheap mindset of the male youths. Moreover, the workshop even benefited me by polishing my public speaking skills as it was my first experience of panel discussion and even provided me with good memories and contacts for my future."
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
"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.
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.
“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.