Pakistani Women in Space: Meet Zartaj Waseem, CEO & Co-Founder Pakistan Space Science Education Centre
Did you think that Pakistani women are not passionate about science? Well, you were wrong. Meet Zartaj Waseem, a STEAM Education specialist (a software engineer by profession) focused on transforming the methods of teaching and learning Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math (STEAM). Zartaj is the CEO and Co-founder of Pakistan Space Science Education Centre. She is pioneering & spearheading Pakistan's first ever Space Science Education initiative focused on exploration of Mars. And that's not half of it! She is leading Destination Imagination (DI), a US-based STEAM Program at Haque Academy, focal person of National Organizer in Pakistan for World Robot Olympiad (WRO) on behalf of STEM360, and is the first Pakistani STEAM Education Professional to be designated as Global STEM Corps Advisor for FIRST Global and also as an International Award Judge. Zartaj, you are truly a Role Model for many women and girls in Pakistan!
Women Engineers Pakistan got in touch with Zartaj, and of course we couldn't wait to share her incredible achievements with all of you! Here is what Zartaj had to say about her path as an engineer and as an educator:
I was born in Karachi and belonged to a middle class family. My father is a Mechanical & Electrical Engineer (retired) and I studied Science/Computer Science because I liked it. My grandfather wanted me to be a doctor however my parents gave me the liberty to pursue the career of my choice but they wanted good grades. My cousin who is associated with the field of IT (currently in the US) guided me towards the field of Computer Science and I ended up doing Software Engineering.
My favorite subject was English and Science. I didn’t like Math until I did Math in college and it was my math teachers because of whom I actually started liking the subject. I firmly believe that teaching strategies and imparting subject knowledge in an engaging way is a vital element for inspiring students. Many people have content/subject knowledge but not all of them can teach.
I certainly feel that studying Science and Mathematics was a very good decision, as it helped me apply subject knowledge while I was doing my degree in Software Engineering. I truly realized the importance of studying these subjects when I entered my professional life.
I am a STEM Education Professional, currently the CEO & Co-Founder of Pakistan Space Science Education Centre (PSSEC). My Co-Founder, Nahyan Farooq, Chief Design Officer (CDO) of PSSEC came up with the idea of introducing Space Science Education in Pakistan. He confided in my capabilities to join hands with him in inspiring and educating our young generation and present them with the quality STEM Education opportunities available to the children in the developed countries.
In addition to my corporate experience in the field of IT, I have enjoyed being in the STEM Education field since 2010. STEM Education was quite a novel idea back then and I have always wanted to do something different, something unique, and not just follow the trends. I find myself as more of a leader and trendsetter, somebody who confidently spearheads initiatives.
I founded the Robotics & STEM Studio at Haque Academy, followed by a leading role in establishing Pakistan’s first STEM Education organization, Robotics Labs. Becoming a coach/trainer for school kids Robotics teams and representing Pakistan at International Robotics Competitions with my teams namely, FIRST Lego League and Destination Imagination and as International Judge at FIRST Global.
This experience has led me to enjoy facing challenges when I try to execute and implement a new idea. I realized that Computer Science is a very diverse field, be it in the education or the corporate sector, it gives one the autonomy and flexibility to make almost everything possible. Yet, Software Engineering is a male dominated field. Although the team members I have worked with have always been very supportive and respectful, I feel that people do not have enough faith in a woman’s capabilities that she will be able to handle matters independently in such fields. Good news is that this has certainly improved over the years now.
STEM Education has been quite a game changer for me. I have been on a roller coaster ride all these years struggling to strike a balance between home/family and work. At the same time, I have been blessed with opportunities that I had never thought would come my way. My family has been quite understanding and supportive particularly my kids.
As far as where I derive inspiration from; Bill Gates has been my role model. His character trait of being innovative in ideas and introducing newer and better technology to the world has always inspired me.
I consider barriers as challenges to overcome, just like in a game you progress by overcoming obstacles and you keep trying until you succeed. I don’t think that these challenges are meant to stop us. I feel that barriers are there to make us change our strategy about approaching something and becoming better at it.
Girls are a miraculous creation of Allah. We have a very powerful role be it at home or outside home as a professional. First of all, it is very important to get education and then something that I have assimilated and found very useful is the skill of self-learning. If you are good at self-learning and you are self-motivated you are unstoppable. Our girls should be adaptable, assertive and committed to what they dream to achieve.
Inspired? Tell us about your Role Models in STEM!
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
Meet Engr. Beenish Bakhtawar, the newest edition to Women Engineers Pakistan; a great mentor and role model for young girls passionate about STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in Pakistan.
Beenish graduated from National University of Sciences and Technology with a degree in Civil Engineering. Currently pursuing her Masters in Construction Engineering and Management, Beenish strongly feels the absence of women colleagues in Science and Tech. She knows that there is no shortage of talent in Pakistan, and is an avid believer in the enormous potential held by this country's youth. Participation in Women Engineers Pakistan for her is not just work, its a belief. In her words, "This is something I actually believe in. It bothers me so much when people seem confused or trapped in their careers. It has happened with me as well at some point. Secondly, the girls get so much discouragement when they want to pursue a career in engineering. We might just make some actual difference in KP (Khuber Pakhtunkhwa). It would be amazing! Although I have my research going on and making time for it will be difficult, but I am in 🙂 InshaAllah!"
In the future Beenish wants to continue her research focusing on the social and environmental costing of construction projects, device better ways and methods to measure impacts, and design sustainable systems, especially for infrastructure projects.
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."
It is that time of the year again, the circle of life as it were. High school has ended; and students have already sent their university applications, and are now eagerly waiting for their Hogwarts letters to arrive. We all are victims from suffering the many dilemmas before applying to university; Such as where should we apply? What universities are better for applying in the degree we want to major in? What universities are closer or further to home? Which universities offer hands-on top-of-the-notch learning experience? This question, that question.. That is why, to make this process easier for you, I have come up with a list of Top 10 engineering universities in Pakistan, that prospective makers and builders of tomorrow, the engineering students of today, can apply to.
Top 10 Engineering Universities in Pakistan: (in no particular order)
Please note that we are only enlisting the top 10 engineering universities in Pakistan, and by no means are rating them. For a list of international ratings for engineering schools and universities in the country, please visit HEC Ranking Lists webpage here.
Number 1: Pakistan Institution of Engineering and Applied Sciences (PIEAS)
Established in 1990, this university is located in Islamabad - the capital of Pakistan. The university offers a good learning environment as the campus is divided into two faculties: one is for Engineering and the other is for Applied Sciences. To further add to the merits of this university, it is ranked by the HEC and the PEC, as one of the best universities for engineering in Pakistan. Nestled in the serene setting of a beautiful countryside, it is recognized as a preeminent federal public university devoted to higher education in specific disciplines of engineering, natural sciences and formal sciences. The engineering faculty is highly qualified, with 135 world-class, highly qualified full-time faculty members in the diverse fields of physical sciences, engineering and medicine. PIEAS makes a wonderful topper for our list of Top 10 Engineering universities in Pakistan.
Number 2: National University of Science and Technology (NUST)
Established in 1991. This university is located in Islamabad that is the capital of Pakistan. It was created for the particular promotion of higher scientific education in the country, especially in the fields of science and technology. By providing a stable and disciplined academic environment together with need-based research, pertinent to industrial requirements.
The University was granted its Charter in 1993. Over the years, the university has expanded in scope, services and stature and has emerged as a leading comprehensive University in the public sector. Since 2015 NUST is ranked as the 1st highest university for engineering in Pakistan.
Today the university is a multi- campus institution. As it is a new-age university, defining new frontiers in teaching and research. The programs are distinctive for their high-quality research orientation. Notwithstanding the significance of undergraduate courses, there is ever-growing emphasis on postgraduate studies and research output.
Creativity and innovation are embedded as core values in all scholastic activities. The conducive academic environment at the campuses facilitates educational pursuits.
moreover, NUST has developed linkages with international universities of repute to ensure two-way flow of knowledge and to be in step with modern trends. Split programs and visits of eminent professors from reputed foreign universities is a regular feature of the academic activity. These eminent scholars deliver lectures on the latest developments in their respective fields and also help update and review the academic programs.
Number 3: Ghulam Ishaq Khan Institution of Engineering Science and Technology (GIKI)
This university is located in Pakistan’s North- West Frontier Province. It is Pakistan’s 3rd highest rated engineering university. If that is not reason enough, the university offers a wide range of courses and as the campus is located away from city life it offers a peaceful environment for study.
The Institute aspires for the leadership role in pursuit of excellence in engineering, sciences and technology. The Institute provides excellent teaching and research environment to produce graduates who distinguish themselves by their professional competence, research, entrepreneurship, humanistic outlook, ethical rectitude. the university adopts a pragmatic approach to problem solving, managerial skills and ability to respond to the challenge of socio-economic development to serve as the vanguard of techno-industrial transformation of the society.
Therefore, for those under graduates to be who want both a merger of theoretical and practical implementation of knowledge. GIKI is the place to go.
Number 4: University of Engineering and Technology (UET)
This university is located in Lahore. Offering its students a lively and always happening city environment. Today the university is spread over 4 campuses, which just goes to show its outreach and regional curriculum agenda.
The University is known for playing a leading role as a University of Engineering and Technology. The teaching style, research, innovation and commercialization that is internationally relevant with this University is great. Therefore, if you are looking for an economically feasible, higher education then UET is the place for you.
Number 5: University of Engineering and Technology (UET, Taxila)
This university is one of the top engineering universities in Pakistan. It is located in the historic and culturally rich city of Taxila. it is a campus extension of the University of Engineering and technology in Lahore.
The city of Taxila is 35 km from the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi on the main Rawalpindi-Peshawar highway. The University buses commute daily between the campus and the cities of Islamabad, Rawalpindi and Wah Cantt. The campus covers an area of 163 acres. All the teaching departments, residential colony for teachers/ employees, student hostels, guesthouse, post office and bank are housed on campus.
Thus, for anyone who wants to be away from the hustle and bustle of city life but still have the option for the city weekend. Then this is the university if for you.
Number 6: Institution of Space and Technology
Located in Islamabad, established in 2002, it is known as the center of excellence. Their aim is provide the state-of-the-art training facilities that will enable students to acquire hands-on experience, an acute requirement in the professional world.
What makes this university unique is that it provides specialized education in space and related science to bring our nation at par with the international community. Thus, the Institute of Space Technology is a great option for those students that are certain they want a career in aerospace dynamics field of study.
Number 7: Air University
Located in Islamabad AIR University is a federally chartered university. Its headquarters in Islamabad are surrounding the Margalla hills. A central place for engineering student’s right in the heart of Islamabad’s main street.
The mission of Air University is to achieve excellence in teaching and research for producing graduates with sound professional knowledge, integrity of character, a keen sense of social responsibility and a passion for lifelong learning.
The University shall stand committed to creating an environment conducive for attracting the best students, faculty and supporting staff for contributing to the development of a prosperous, peaceful and enlightened society.
The university is achieving it's mission statement gradually and for engineering students that want to continue there stay in Islamabad. This is the university for you.
Located in Karachi, The NEDUET is the oldest university for teaching and turning out graduate engineers.
The best quality about the NEDUET is that it offers engineering students a variety of disciplines to specialize in. To be exact the university offers, 25 disciplines of engineering. So, for students that have difficulty in deciding on a engineering field that they want to specialize in, this university is for them. As it offers the freedom of choice in sub- disciplining engineering.
Established in 1990 the University of KPK offers a wide range of engineering disciplines. The university itself is historically very architectural, and has produced many notable engineers within the country. Though there has been a notably low male:female student ratio, the faculty and available courses call for more participation for women in STEM.
Number 10: Mehran University of Engineering and Technology (MUET)
The MUET is located in the region of Jamshoro, Sindh. Jamshoro is near the indus river a beautiful touristic site for students to explore over the weekends.
The university has established a conducive environment for top of the class professional education and research. As they aim to produce quality professionals who uphold and advance for the integrity, honor, and dignity of their profession, while taking active part in the development of the society. – A well-rounded engineering student is their aim.
Thus, it can be stated that there are several universities students wishing to pursue an engineering career can apply to in Pakistan. I wish you all, the best of luck and an amazing University experience.
Founder Women Engineers Pakistan, Ramla Karim Qureshi spoke to students at IET Women's Network at University of Engineering and Technology, UET Lahore from a virtual portal. Ramla is a Structural and Earthquake engineer by profession, and is presently pursuing specialization at the State University of New York, UB. She graduated from NUST in 2012 with a BE in Civil Engineering. Now she hopes to increase STEM Education in Pakistan, generating more interest within Pakistani women.
Check out her talk about importance of women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM Fields) in Pakistan below:
The Citizens Foundation honoured Founder of Women Engineers Pakistan; Miss Ramla Karim Qureshi by inviting her at the TCF Rahbar Program as Hero Speaker. "Rahbar is a Mentor-ship Program at TCF schools across Pakistan aimed at the development of youth as responsible individuals." Here Ramla talked to young girls and boys about the importance of attaining education. She gave a personalized account of her own struggle with life and how she eventually started Women Engineers Pakistan, in an effort to inspire students at the prestigious school. Discussion was focused on self-empowerment
Meet Pakistani Woman Engineer Sidra Kaleem. Here's what she thinks about technical empowerment for women:
1. Firstly, please tell us your thoughts on Empowerment for women: These days women empowerment is one of the most talked about topics. About 50% of Pakistan's total population is women, so you can very well imagine our importance in the country. The worth that I associate to the women of Pakistan is also huge. We are creative and can make vital contribution to national as well as global economy, provided we are recognized, rewarded and celebrated appropriately!
2. And why do any country's women need to be technically strong? Firstly we should bear in mind that science, engineering, technology; these are not “only” for boys. Most of the girls in our society have fallen into this trap which escalates them away from pursuing technical fields. Math and science are their worst nightmares ever, and numbers and calculation haunt them because they never realize that if we really put our mind into anything, nothing remains impossible. Today the entire world is in dire need of help, even most developed countries in the world suffer from crumbling roads and bridges, deadly diseases, various environmental issues, brutal natural catastrophes etc. etc. To mitigate and tackle these challenges women should come forward and play their roles. To benefit this world and humanity we need to craft our “Technical” skills.
3. What made you chose a technical field? To be honest I “accidentally” landed in a technical field. I am a very “curious” person, I have so many questions which I never hesitate to ask, I love solving mysteries, I enjoy “Research” and I feel pleasure in giving, when I got to know that “Engineering” is all about questioning, solving and paying back to humanity I regarded this experience the most beautiful accident of my life. Why I chose Civil Engineering? Well it was something because of something you can easily relate to. From the house you live, road you drive, office you work, the beautiful city you live in, it’s all planned and designed majorly by Civil Engineers.
4. Your message to the youngsters? My message would be "work hard, be consistent and always remain positive no matter things are going exactly opposite to your expectations, have a belief that it will happen and it will surely happen. Never get disappointed by the negative vibes and prejudices, instead enjoy it & take it as a challenge to show the world what you are actually capable of doing."
Do you support technical growth for women? Here's what WEP member Irsa Anwar says about empowering women:
"Women Engineers Pakistan is taking up the mammoth task of bringing enlightenment to the youth of Pakistan in areas that, although of immense importance, gain little attention. Having gone through the difficult period of planning a career and deciding the direction I need to take during my studies, I'm aware of the hardships, confusions and indecisiveness that accompanies this task. In our society, some of these difficulties are created more so by social norms rather than internal conflicts; faced with unending advice on how Civil Engineering was not a woman's plate yet a desire to pursue this field, I am aware of the external factors that deter our resolve. But perseverance pays off, and that's what I'm here to share. With this platform, young and prospective engineers of Pakistan can find a guiding light, and a motivation to pursue their goals in this field, and we are here to support them. It is time to shift, to challenge the stereotypes and make Pakistan the hub of technological advancements, harboring the talent that abounds our land. As a fellow engineer, it's my ambition to play my role as an agent of positive change in Engineering industry of Pakistan."
- Miss Irsa Anwar, Civil Engineer.
Join us in our cause! Drop an email of interest at email@example.com
World Environment Day (WED) is the United Nations’ principal vehicle for encouraging worldwide awareness and action for the environment. We interviewed one of our very active Environmental Engineer regarding the importance of celebrating this day. Here is what Engr. Saliha Akram has to say about it:
"In a world where the human race has reached astronomical heights and where women have fought to make their mark- there is an area which needs our attention more than ever:
The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate.
Settle, not yet.
Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand. So let me ask all the engineers, especially my fellow women engineers to shake off all the distractions that prevent us from creating a sustainable environment and move forward. Because as the famous Carl Sagan put it-' Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no help that will come to save us from ourselves.'
We celebrated this day as a day of hope. Hope for a bright and safe future for all coming generations."