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
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.
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
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.
Landing a tech internship in Pakistan has not only become a very tricky process but seemingly, also an incredibly difficult one. Competition is tougher than ever and market saturation is prevailing rampantly across our nation, no longer limited to only the main cities such as Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad.
More importantly it is no longer substantial to have a good degree from a good university as a fresh graduate are required to have “experience” before “experience” in order to land a tech internship.
However, fear not young readers, for this article solely focuses on attaining a tech internship within Pakistan alone, addressing some particular issues that can only be found in Pakistan when trying to land a tech internship.
I personally found it astonishing to discover that many graduates in this field are unable to properly describe what a tech internship really is. Thus, let us begin by offering concise understanding of this before diving into the process of successfully landing a tech internship.
So What Is A Tech Internship?
6 Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy Steps of Landing a Tech Internship in Pakistan:
Number 1: Think Outside of the metaphorical box that is your resume;
Don't make haste and assume resumes are not important. They are crucial when it comes to landing a tech internship, however, the reality is that resumes are kind of old school. As an alternative, an online portfolio could go a long way in getting you noticed. This is because it increases your visibility and makes your presence known on an array of different platforms. An online portfolio offers you the edge of diversity which is crucial in landing a tech internship in Pakistan, specially considering the fact that you do not want to be seen as a carbon copy of every individual that possess the same degree as you.
Number 2: Do Not Be Afraid to Try or Say New Ideas;
I once heard someone say that “new ideas are like a breath of fresh air.”
As the world around us is becoming relatively homogeneous due to globalization a consequence of this is the “Mcdonaldlisation” of society and ideas. This basically means that people are losing traits and characteristics that are unique to them, their culture, and heritage in exchange for global trends that might seem more efficient, but which are also highly impersonal and lackluster. For this precise reason companies looking to hire interns are seeking for new ideas and pioneering projects.
Therefore, in an interview do not be afraid to give your opinion and individualistic perspective about upcoming ideas. This can show your potential employer that you are a motivated and excited about landing an internship with them, and are willing to work vigorously to succeed. More prominently, it indicates that you are a confident individual who is willing to take calculated risks in the field of innovation. This is crucial to current tech companies looking to hire interns.
Number 3: Do Your Research;
All in all this means come prepared to the interview! Not solely in terms of rehearsing your answers to the likely questions that you are to be asked, but this also implies knowing the “ins and outs” of the company you are trying to gain an internship for. In order to do so, it would be wise to keep in mind the following points:
Number 4: Power of Passion;
Passionate people have the potential to engage the interviewer especially because they stand out from the rest of the applicants. “During your interview or at a networking event, tell companies what you’re passionate about. Show them that you can make a dent.” - Mike Champion said this in his article on successfully scoring a tech internship and I cannot agree with him more.
Passion is an innate and personal quality that can only be attained when you are genuinely looking forward to the internship; so please do show how passionate you are about the position. Especially, as it will distinguish those Pakistani interns applying simply to reach a means to an end, and those Pakistani interns applying for a genuine love of technology. Make it a point to demonstrate your wish to further your professional development and growth from a career and personal perspective in the field of tech, and let them know why their company is the place to do so.
Number 5: Be a Team player;
Usually in the framework of a tech internship, as the internship commences, the norm is not that the intern be working alone. They have to engage with or be a part of a bigger team for assignments, projects and at times even field work. Therefore, though it is good to possesses leadership qualities one also has to come off as a team player. Now, many of you must be thinking "How can I come off as a team player in a 40 minute interview?”
This is very easy, for example try using the terms “we” instead of “I” when talking about group projects or “hum” instead of “mein” if your interview is partly being conducted in Urdu. This will show the interviewer that you are probably a better working cultural fit than candidates that don’t show much interest in collaborating with their co -workers.
Number 6: Fix Up and Look Sharp;
I cannot begin to stress how important this statement is. Remember when it comes to landing an internship presentation is everything, well, 80% of everything; because if you are not dressed appropriately, or if you look either too done up or too casual both can be your downfall.
Therefore, it is always best to dress in a professional manner. For men, a simple white/ blue collar shirt, black trousers, belt, socks and polished shoes and for women a nice shalwar kameez with tidy hair shall do the trick. Remember, personal hygiene and professional look account for a lot, especially when it comes to making first impressions. So do not falter in this regard.
Lastly, here are some simple DO's and Don’ts to landing a tech internship in Pakistan:
Here are some YouTube videos for extra luck and preparation:
Vivacious. And making waves.
Although STEM has been a male-dominated field in Pakistan, it hasn’t stopped women from making exceptional contributions to the field. Some initiatives taken by Pakistani women to create an impact through technology, are not only note-worthy but also inspirational. Here are a few Pakistani women in tech that have, in my personal opinion, reassured that technology and innovation is beyond gender differences and is purely about skill and innovation.
1. JEHAN ARA (@jehan_ara)
Jehan Ara is the President of Pakistan Software Houses Association for IT & ITES (P@SHA) and the tech incubator NEST I/O. She tops this list not only because of her position but also because of the initiatives she has taken. She is an ardent supporter of legislation for cyber crime, and privacy and data protection. She is also part of the “Bolo Bhi” campaign, and gives seminars and motivational talks in various training programs where she strongly advocates her cause. Jehan Ara has more than 30 years of experience in the field of technology, where she has been using her marketing, communication and entrepreneurial skills to bring techies and entrepreneurs on-board.
2. AYESHA FAROOQ
Pakistani women in tech never stop amazing us!! A small city in southern Punjab, Bahawalpur, is where the first female fighter pilot of Pakistan comes from. Ayesha Farooq joined the Pakistan Air Force Academy in 2006 and was destined to become a war pilot ever since.
She was the first among six girls to pass her examination and was ready to fly the F7-PG, which is the Chinese version of MiG 21 fighter jet. Farooq has undergone hard-core technical and physical training also required by men in the same field, and is looked upon as a role model by many girls aspiring to be a part of the Pakistan Air Force.
3. SHEBA NAJMI (@snajmi)
A Stanford graduate with a majors in Human-Computer interactions, Sheba Najmi is the Founder and Executive Director of Code For Pakistan (CFP). CFP is a volunteer based, non-profit organization which brings web developers and government domain experts together to improve the quality of services provided by civic institutions. It is helping bridge a gap between government and citizens by providing smart solutions for everyday problems. DocSeek, Messiha, NoKunda, and KP Traffic are a few of the Apps which have been developed by volunteers at CFP.
Najmi has been involved in product innovation and user experience for over 11 years now and is currently working with Exygy. She also has experience working with The World Bank, Yahoo!, Inc., Code for America, LUXE Valet and many others, and is one of the most inspiring Pakistani women in tech!
4. MARIA UMAR (@MariaUmar)
When you talk about giving digital empowerment to women, Maria Umar is the first name that comes to my mind. She is the Founder and President of “Women’s Digital League” (WDL). WDL provides freelancing training to women who can work from home, making it a priority to take into consideration the amount of talent which is left idle in the country.
With an experience of over 7 years at WDL, Maria also works with Enclude as a project manager. She has been recognised for her efforts in various publications like Mashable, Forbes, Virgin, Ashoka, Dawn, etc. Maria has been trained by top business experts from Silicon Valley in Artemis/Goldman Sachs 10,000 women Program. Additional to all these accolades, she has also been nominated as a Thought Leader at the Ashoka Changemakers.
5. UMAIMAH MENDHRO (@umaimah)
Coming from a small village in Pakistan and scoring a high distinction in Human Development and Computer Sciences at Cornell University, and later at Harvard University as well, Umaimah is the best example of integrating technology and entrepreneurship with innovation. She has established an e-commerce platform for designers and manufacturers to align their skills and provide customized and personalized products to customers. VIDA has more than 200 designers who provide digital designs to manufacturers in various places of the world, including Pakistan, and then sell the digitally printed scarves, handbags and dresses to people all over the world.
Umaimah has had experience working with Microsoft and McKinsey & Company before coming up with the idea of VIDA. Although VIDA is only 2 years old as of now, the concept was able to raise a funding of $1.3 million from established names like Google Ventures, Universal Music Group and many more. As one of the established Pakistani women in tech, Not only is Umaimah proud of her Pakistani origin, she makes sure that she gives rightful credit to the Pakistani manufacturers and artists that are an integral part of VIDA.
Ted Talk by Umaimah
Be the change you want to see.
"I grew up in Cambridge in England, and my love of mathematics dates from those early childhood days." - Andrew Wiles.
Childhood: the time to grow, the time to see, the time to explore. So many of my childhood memories revolve around my toys, from Barbie doll tea parties in the mud, to playing hide and seek and all sorts of fun! Never did I know how to generate a child's interest in STEM fields with mere toys!
There is no doubt that the fortunately blessed among us have had a lovely childhood where our minds were relaxed and we engaged in an array of childish play. Today however, the challenge that presents itself is to combine fun and education. I personally like to call it ‘fun-ducation’; not unlike the merging of two polar opposites such as broccoli and cheese, education and fun can also be harmoniously paired.
Children are incredibly fond and therefore evidently attached to their toys. In retrospect when adults look back at their childhood, most are not likely to remember the food they ate, the words they spoke or even the friends they made. No, most children remember the toys they had, and that is because as adults most of us keep our toys. Even if they become raggedy, old and unrecognizable we keep them for sentiment. We keep them because they remind us of a time that was inexplicably innocent, and yet came to pass too quickly.
In recent years many studies have brought to light the notion that a child’s interest in science should be established at an early age. And what better method to achieve this than giving your children toys that stimulate and nurture a child’s innate interest in the world around them; and henceforth science.
However, before our readers can be enlightened as to what toys are best suited and most fun for establishing a child’s early interest in science, it is of pivotal importance that adults and parents alike understand the countless benefits that can be gained from such a collaboration.
According to schoolatoz and various other educational institutions, the benefits of incorporating science from an early age into a child's life are substantial towards their socialization process. Let us observe some of the many benefits to be achieved from inculcating science into a child’s life via STEM related toys.
NUMBER 1 - CURIOSITY
Firstly, scientific or S.T.E.M related toys aid a parent in answering those tough questions children are prone to ask after the age of four. Such as “where does the moon come from?” and “what are the stars made of?"
Children are wired to be curious about the world and the surrounding environment they reside in. It is only through their creative and artful curiosity that a child learns, grows, and develops. And what better way is there than to nurture such thoughts, and ignite a child's interest in STEM areas of thought through toys.
NUMBER 2 - COMMUNICATION
Secondly, science opens up a gateway of communication between the parent and child. This is beneficial for both as it results in establishing open communication between the pair, which later builds into trust. It becomes even more advantageous for the child as he/she develops the basic tools required for communication. Additionally, the child’s thirst for questions is quenched through answers.
NUMBER 3 - BUILD CHARACTER
Thirdly, patience and perseverance are two personality traits that are very hard to achieve, let alone master, especially at an older age. The great thing about science based toys is that they prepare children by allowing them to indirectly understand the importance of such values. For example, the pressed flower collection kit engages the child simultaneously, in the worlds of nature, art and science. Given the fact that it is not easy and that it is a time consuming process to make a herbarium, it also instills patience into both boys and girls.
NUMBER 4 - INTEREST IN STEM FIELDS
Lastly, my personal favorite reason for using toys to generate an interest in science is because it teaches children that the world is bigger than just you and I. This is a lesson many adults still have trouble accepting, let alone learning. Thus, I would consider that it is not just “learning” but a “gift” granted by science that teaches children to understand and explore the world around them. So many children are inquisitive about the man in the clouds, the holes in the moon, the starry stars in the sky and the galaxies and planets so far and wide.
Now, some of our readers may feel that these “scientific toys” are expensive and cannot be found or be of use to children in Pakistan. And yes, it is true, that such toys and kits for children are relatively pricey, however, it is for this precise reason that I have come up with a list of fun, functionally useful toys that parents can buy for children here in Pakistan or simply make at home. Hopefully, this list helps you put light to your child's interest in STEM, who knows he/she might grow up to become a world class space explorer or Nobel Prize winner in Physics!
As you can see from the list above there exists quite an array of toys one can make and/or buy for their child to generate an interest in science. Though, in my personal opinion the ideal toy for both girls and boys would be combining the “grow a maze” and “kids backyard bug” kit. For girls in particular I would suggest the scientific Barbie doll and for boys the robots/ or aircraft engine.
The toy insider mom and I agree on the point that children growing up in the in the 21st century need to be especially equipped with knowledge and understanding of science, engineering, mathematics and technology based ideas. This is because that is the world that surrounds them and there is no better or more creatively fun way to achieve this than through “fun-ducation”, and the pathway to it is paved with science based toys. You may have to beg and plead with a child to do their homework but you will not have to ask them twice to play with their toys!
Here is a link to websites that can assist parents in buying toys for their children that generate an interest in science and it’s not too heavy on the wallet either:
Check out these cool videos to help with S.T.E.M Toys at home;
And some AMAZING science experiments to do at home:
Vivacious. And making waves.
Capability - The ability or power to do something, that something could be as easy as washing the dishes or as difficult as understanding quantum physics.
Either way whether it be the developed or developing world a stereotypical stigma is attached to women; that they are quote “incapable” of understanding let alone mastering the world of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (S.T.E.M).
Thus, it should come as no surprise that when women in our nation choose such fields to specialise in it is followed by condemnation or worse, taken as a joke. However, the question arises is this truly the case throughout Pakistan? It is this burning question that has resulted in me writing an article about the development of STEM in Pakistan. With 2015 fast approaching its end and the New Year near to kicking off, by the looks of things, it seems the women of Pakistan have made a commitment to evolve, grow and develop in the fields of STEM.
Unsurprisingly, while conducting my research I found that when it comes to STEM in Pakistan most articles, online or otherwise, have had no moral difficulty in portraying a ruthlessly negative and grim image of STEM in Pakistan. Take the article by "The Nation" it talks about how a typical “fixed mind-set” exists and then gives a mediocre solution as to how to overcome this problem.
From my own personal experience as a Pakistani woman, majoring in International Relations and Politics (another, unconventional subject) let me state quite categorically that our nation does not have a “fixed- mind-set” when it comes to women in STEM and if anything the year 2015 proves that the future of STEM for women is a bright one.
For example, the number of women in the field of technology and engineering is increasing in Pakistan; one such example is Novaira Masood a graduate from FAST- NU in software engineering who designed and engineered Maleficent wings in the Disney film “Maleficent” and blockbuster films such as “Thor”,” Transformers 3” and several others.
It may also be surprising to know that Pakistan actually has numerous on-going STEM career projects. The aim of hosting these contests/projects is to encourage, inspire, and give our youth hope to not only pursue careers in STEM; but more importantly to do so in a manner which fuels their passion. Contests such as NSTC (National Science Talent Contest) and NEC (National Engineering Competition) do exactly that.
There is comfort in knowing that in 2015, STEM related initiatives targeted young girls encouraging them to explore and expand their talents especially, in the field of mathematics and sciences. One totally out of the box idea launched by Robokids is based in Lahore. This program has the potential to completely change the educational curriculum of most schools and is a living inspiration that with the right ideology, noble intentions and commitment anything is possible.
On a governmental level HEC and PIEAS have also formed a STEM program; funds through this joint venture have resulted in 3 students wining two bronze medals and one honourable mention at the 23rd IBO (International Biology Olympiad) hosted in Singapore. Out of the three students, one was female. It is wonderful to know that such ventures exist. Here the phrase ‘better late than never’ applies. As one can argue that Pakistan is a patriarchal society, where men will always have opportunities to excel in various fields - especially STEM. It is about time women start to do so as well, only then can Pakistan achieve its true potential and succeed.
Recently, all taboos were dismantled at the IEEE-WIE CIIT debating competition, which was held in Lahore. Not only did women boldly voice their thoughts and opinions on whether they should be in engineering and technical fields but also thanks to the winds of change they were given a formal platform to do so! This unique wave of change flies in the face of the status quo and the ill-informed notion that Pakistan is incapable of empowering women in the field of STEM.
Although the year 2015 has taken a stepping stone towards change there is still a long way to go. A lot of research needs to be conducted to establish proper quantifiable and valid data in order to attain a true picture of how dire the situation of women in Pakistan in relation to STEM actually is. This opportunity is currently being provided by the British Council. The council is launching its third strand of women and girls empowerment strategy, with the aim of building the skills and confidence of women and girls alike to achieve their full potential.
As the saying goes “where there is a will, there is a way.”
Women are breaking stereotypes in Pakistan and though realistically it may seem minute in comparison to the developed world at large. What our readers need to understand is that Pakistan stands at 180th in literacy at world level with only a 58.7 % female adult literacy rate in comparison to males. Hence, our nation’s issue of education and women in STEM are both being simultaneously tackled. Pessimists may see it as a baby step but in actuality it is a revolution of the mind that is currently being fought and 2016 is bound to show even more quantitative results, as the path for female future generations is being carved for us to excel in the field of STEM; the initiation of which has already begun.