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 Any company can be more productive if it welcomes new ideas and fresh mindsets, instead of sticking to outdated techniques.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.
Pakistan's child prodigy, Arfa Karim Randhawa became the world's youngest Microsoft Certified Professional at the age of nine. Her incredible achievements at such a young age prove that given the resources; girls of Pakistan are extremely intelligent, and can succeed in even the so-termed hard fields.
Such was Arfa, with a passion to help promote IT within all social classes of the country. Her brilliance shone worldwide, and Co-founder of Microsoft Mr. Bill Gates met Arfa personally to present her with the certified Microsoft Application Certificate.
Tragically, Arfa passed away on January 14, 2012, after suffering from an epileptic attack.
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
CIRCLE in collaboration with TechRock, and Lean In China bring She Loves Tech to Pakistan! If you have an idea with the potential to create vibes across the globe, this is your chance to shine! She Loves Tech is a global startup competition that presents opportunities to women entrepreneurs. Here's an extract from their website regarding the competition, eligibility, and the prizes for your hard work!!
"She Loves Tech is a global initiative showcasing the convergence of the latest trends in technology, entrepreneurship, innovation and the opportunities it creates for women. It consists of an annual global startup competition and international conference series.
1. All applications must be submitted online and in english.
2. The deadline for applications is June 23, 2017.
*Please note that a panel of industry specialists will be reviewing BPs and shortlisting finalists for the round. All finalists will be informed 7-10 days before the competition.
STAGE: Seeking Angel, Seed or Series A funding (Under US$3m funding raised)
(a) At least one female entrepreneur in founding team who is using technology to solve a problem
(b) any entrepreneur, male or female, who is using technology to impact women positively:
• Are a significant proportion of end-users female?
• Are products specifically designed with women users in mind?
• Does the product itself address a problem that disproportionately affects women?
The use of science and innovation to invent useful things or to solve problems. This extends beyond digital, information or internet-based technology and covers everything from hardware to the creation of new product and solutions to existing problems.
We are open to accepting startups from all industries, with a particular focus on startups in these verticals:
• Fin Tech (finance)
• Consumer Tech (e-commerce, big data)
• Med Tech (medicine)
• Edu Tech (education)
• Agri Tech (agriculture)
• Clean Energy
• Internet of Things
• B to B Solutions
The winners will be selected by a panel of judges who are looking at a range of criteria including market opportunity, scalability and growth potential, innovation and creativity, calibre of founder and team, and last but not least, women impact.
Prizes & Benefits
The top team from She Loves Tech Pakistan 2017 will receive:
• Spot to pitch on international stage at finals in Beijing, China (September 16, 2017)
• Week-long boot camp (September 11-15, 2017) in Beijing, China consisting of talks and panels relating to globalization, the Chinese market and the latest technology trends, visits to leading tech companies, networking opportunities, and personalized pitch preparation workshops (accommodation covered)
• Pass to the She Loves Tech 2017 Conference in Beijing, China (September 16, 2017)
• Access to Overseas Talent Entrepreneurship Conference’s (OTEC) resources (including but not limited to visa, business establishment and investment matching support in Beijing, China)
• Opportunity to apply for the Phoenix Plan grant of 100,000 RMB in Beijing’s Chaoyang District
• Listed in 36Kr Investor Assistant, China’s leading startup database, which has access to 8000 investors
• Intensive global media exposure including features in 36Kr, All China Tech, E27, ELLE etc.
• Mentorship with Chinaccelerator
• Other mentorship, networking and investment Opportunities (Teja Ventures, a venture capital fund with a gender lens, SOSV, #1 in VC seed funding for female-founded startups (TechCrunch), and other affiliate funds of the She Loves Tech global initiative will also be actively looking to invest in women impact startups from the competition)
*More prizes coming soon
Learn more at www.shelovestech.org"
"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.
How much have you achieved in your current job? How many monthly, annual or quarterly targets have you met? What are the major projects you undertook and your team leader commended you for your effort? You need to answer all these questions in your resume. As you progress in your job over the years, you somehow forget to update your resume. Keep track of all your major and minor achievements at work and make sure you add them to that one document which can earn you better opportunities.
Your resume is probably the most important document to help your potential employer take a glance into your professional experience, qualification and what you are capable of. There are various schools of thought on how important this document is. There are a few who believe that it is your communication and interpersonal skills which matter most, but there are others who believe that your resume is the single most important document to help you in getting a job.
Your resume might not be the single most important thing in earning you a great employment opportunity, but it is definitely something that will build up your chances of getting an interview call or creating a place in the market. It is therefore important that you pay close attention to how you build up your resume overtime.
Along with the projects undertaken at the current job, you must look for accomplishments which are beyond your current job requirement. Stay updated about the latest happenings in your area of expertise by undertaking extra courses, trainings or workshops. Stay a step ahead of what your organization has assigned you with. It is always easier to switch jobs if you have something more than ordinary on offer. Today, apps like edX, coursera, duolingo, etc. enable you to undertake online distant courses from renowned universities and learn new languages, free of cost. This can be a substantial add-on in your resume along with your current job experience.
When you start off as an entry level candidate, your resume is more focused towards your education and interests, whereas at the mid-level it is more experience-centered. Therefore, when you have been associated with a particular field over a couple of years, you list down your major accomplishments or targets achieved, in quantitative terms, within that field. Another major change is that the education section moves towards the end of the resume as you become a professional. It is your experiences which will help you stand out.
If you undertook a certain project and it earned the organization a calculable increase in revenue, etc. mention it on your resume. This makes the accomplishment prominent and noteworthy. Not only this, the skills mentioned on your resume must become more relevant to your core competencies over time. Certifications, professional examinations, etc. related to your area of expertise must be replaced by generic skills.
Building up your resume as you climb up your professional ladder is immensely important. Every target that you achieve, every skill that you enhance, every serious interest that you have deserves a place in your resume. Create it in such a way that the ten second glance which the recruiter makes at your resume is captivating enough.
Be the change you want to see.
It is definitely big news when President Obama invites Jehan Ara - President for P@SHA (Pakistan Software Houses Association for IT and ITES), and The Nest I/O, to speak at the 7th Annual Global Entrepreneurship Summit at Stanford University, California.
Jehan Ara is the face of the Pakistani IT industry, a phenomenally big name in the rising Pakistani entrepreneurial market, and a beacon of bright inspiration for Pakistani women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) fields. The said email invitation is for Jehan Ara as a panel member for discussion over a very interesting topic: "Investing in South Asia: "What's Next for Entrepreneurship in India, Pakistan, and Beyond," and Jehan Ara is the ideal candidate for this job.
Even Obama invites Jehan Ara!!
The Women Engineers Pakistan has always been proud of Jehan Ara. She has been a role model for numerous women in Pakistan, a pioneer paving the way for others and a leader lighting the path ahead for new comers. The fact that Obama invites Jehan Ara to represent Pakistan, and that The White House is fully aware of her capabilities is nothing short of fantastic in the progress picture for the country.
Now What Though?
Rising tide of Young Entrepreneurs in Pakistan
Pakistan is now home to one of the world’s largest populations of young people. As per Peace & Conflict Monitor, Pakistan is among some of the very young counties, some of them with "..two-thirds of their populations under the age of thirty." The population of the country is about 200 million people, and imagine how much this can be worth when 70 percent of them are within the age group of 25-30. Jehan Ara has always been a proponent of fresh ideas and we are sure she will be highlighting this asset. As we can see from the Population Pyramid Youth Bulge for Pakistan by the US Bureau of Census, the USA is not unaware of Pakistan's young potential. And the Global Entrepreneurship Summit is the perfect place for a nice little refresher.
Jehan Ara leads P@SHA, and The Next I/O, both of which are directly linked with a large number of young Pakistani entrepreneurs. Having their best interests at heart, Jehan will most probably try to direct international interests toward investment in various Pakistani start-ups. Maybe pitching ideas like Virtual Speed Dating, or Shark Tank mock-ups might help.
Visa Issues for Pakistani Entrepreneurs
Undoubtedly, this is the most problematic avenue for most Pakistanis. The US Department of State seems to be a bit more stringent on policies for a Pakistani passport. Inviting more entrepreneurs from this country can greatly benefit the USA on frontiers of growth and diversity. Who knows, it might even help put an end to extremist stereotypes.
Growth of Female Entrepreneurs
The USA has always been an avid supporter of women empowerment. Pakistan offers a whopping statistic of 50% women in its population. Directing interests towards the growth of women can help nurture better support for future generations. As she herself said,
Turkey and Iran are two of the front-liners when it comes to progress of Muslim majority countries in STEM fields. When it comes to futuristic progress, STEM study in Turkey and Iran enable these countries to take a lead on the global scale, and a developing country like Pakistan can benefit tremendously from following in their footsteps.
What’s pleasantly surprising is the fact that Turkey’s progress is quite rapidly evolving in STEM. In fact, Turkey is ahead of some western states when it comes to the participation of women in the arena of STEM.
The ode to women’s rise in STEM goes to the Turkish women themselves as they empower each other to progress in the field of STEM on an individual, societal and communal level. And for those of us witnessing this epicenter of change for them, it’s like a breath of fresh air.
WEI is one such non- profit organization that is empowering women to boldly step forward in the art of STEM. The mission of IEEE WEI is to “facilitate the recruitment and retention of women in technical disciplines globally. IEEE WIE envisions a vibrant community of IEEE women and men collectively using their diverse talents to innovate for the benefit of humanity.”
IEEE's implementation in Turkey is likely to emancipate women from the societal chained mind-set that females are not to enter the field of STEM; (at least seriously) or in terms of a long term profession.
This shift of the tectonic plates of the mind is what is causing Turkey to rise, like a phoenix from the ashes, in the field of STEM. And the proof is in the pudding; according to the Muslim science website; Task Force Essay: STEM Education and the Muslim Gender Divide the amount of women in engineering is declining in the U.S., while it is improving in other countries. For example, the U.S. is behind thirteen Muslim countries in the percentage of women graduating with STEM degrees, including Turkey. Moreover, a study titled Women in Engineering, Science, Technology and Mathematic; by Kristine De Welde, from Florida Gulf Coast University and Sandra Laursen and Heather Thiry from the University of Colorado at Boulder, shows that around the world Turkey and Greece both have twice as many graduates for BS and PhD in physics than the US. Reinforcing that viewpoint, Turkish organizations like FeteMM are on the yellow brick road to success in the subject of STEM.
In this manner, the Turkish unique blend of old and new applied in STEM is really working. Pakistan should follow in their footsteps by merging historical culture and modernity simultaneously to take women’s progression forward. This can be done by adopting methods from the west but customizing them to suit the historical values of Pakistan.
Readers, when I said Iran has taken the world by storm it was not a statement to be taken lightly. According to the post mentioned above, 60 percent of university students in Iran are women, and women comprise 70 percent of the science graduates. Thus, Iranian women are more educated than their American and Pakistani counterparts, at least as far as STEM are concerned.
An article by Forbes/ Entrepreneur’s illustrates “The common myth about women in Iran is that they are seen, but not heard, that they’re not permitted to drive, that they are second-class citizens, and that entrepreneurship and positions of power are out of reach. These notions are wrong.” And I could not agree with this statement more.
As I write this article I am overcome by emotions of gratitude and a feeling of 'awe' towards the Iranian women who are breaking stereotypes left, right and centre. Did I say break? I meant utterly shattering the ego of chauvinistic men who have failed in preventing women from progressing in STEM As Doctor Peyvadni said “It’s a historic change.”
This can be seen in the fact that Iranian women are now entering the male dominated field of technology and blooming in the tech business. For those women reading this article in Pakistan this is not your typical article where I will just go on a pessimistic rant about how other Muslim nations are excelling, such as the progressive STEM study in Turkey and Iran, while we just sit behind and watch as the world and is women progress and we stand at a standstill, NO!
What can Pakistan learn from STEM Study in Turkey and Iran:
Identification of areas where Pakistan is lagging behind:
Methods of Improvement:
Lets let the progress of STEM study in Turkey and Iran be an example for aspiring women scientists in Pakistan, but only if the above mentioned changes are implemented - rather than just be written and talked about - can the female population of Pakistan progress in similar fashion to the nations of Iran and Turkey.
“If we’re going to out-innovate and out-educate the rest of the world, we’ve got to open doors for everyone. We need all hands on deck, and that means clearing hurdles for women and girls as they navigate careers in science, technology, engineering, and math.” – Michelle Obama, First Lady of the US.
Vivacious. And making waves.
Whenever we think of an engineer or scientist, a male figure comes to our mind. The thought doesn't seem ironic because the belief is embedded in our society. There are no platforms where women technologists can present their issues, leading to a severe need for exceptional advocacy for Pakistani Women Scientists. This is not only true for developing countries like Pakistan but a stereotypical phenomenon experienced in the developed countries of the world as well.
Pakistan has a growing pool of female scientists and engineers, however, the bias persists. Men still dominate STEM related fields at the places of work. Women scientists and engineers, who graduate from renowned institutions, later don’t participate in the workforce, evading the purpose of their education. Social, cultural, legislative and various other factors contribute towards their non-participation which, if dealt pragmatically, can increase the number of women scientists and engineers who contribute towards the success of this country. It is imperative that the country's government and policy-makers accept the gaping lack in required advocacy for Pakistani women scientists and technologists more seriously!
Although the trend is changing and women today are aspiring to take their careers much more seriously, they still have culturally-expected roles to fulfill. A woman, even if working, is expected to give priority to her household and domestic issues. Moreover, she is expected to execute them with the same vigour as her work. It is mostly because of this role-expectation that she withdraws from the idea of making the best out of her education. What needs to be countered is the idea that household responsibilities should be female-centered only. It should be the duty of both, man and woman, to equally cater for the needs of their house, family and career. We do not expect culture changes to happen overnight, but we do expect policy-makers to recognize the need for advocacy for Pakistani women scientists and engineers and take steady measures to impart more security to women in workplace, which could lead to better workplace environment. If the laws for workplace harassment regulated more stringently, more families can feel comfortable with the idea of a working woman.
Maternity laws for working women have been recognized since 1958 in Pakistan but these laws became part of the provincial domain after the 18th Amendment in the constitution. As a federal law, working women are allowed a period of six weeks pre- and post-natal paid leave. They are also protected against job dismissal during this period and are provided benefits for covering the cost of child delivery. Recently, the provinces have also taken this issue seriously and in maintaining the essence of the federal law, essential legislation has been provided. The problem, however, is the implementation of this law. Various commercial and industrial firms deny women the legally protected benefits to which they are entitled. Women need to be made aware of such laws in order to make them less likely to give up their engineering and scientific skills on account of motherhood.
Need for Advocacy for Pakistani Women Scientists??
In a society like Pakistan, where laws for protecting women are still termed as 'un-Islamic' and are not legislatively sound, it is evident that there is much to be done. Especially in the field of science and technology which is male-dominated, women have higher concerns. The Protection of Women Against Harassment at the Workplace Act came up in 2010 and was also further amended as per the conditions. However, the problem persists. Women empowerment remains limited due to concerns against exploitation and their culturally-embedded fear of male dominance. It is therefore, the mindset and opinion of the general public that needs a shift. Women need to pursue their area of interest regardless of any fear in their mind. They must realize that indeed, they have all the power to be the leading engineers, technologists and scientists of the world.
Be the change you want to see.
Role model – a person you aspire to be, a person you look up to, an individual that may or may not have influenced the world at large but has influenced you.
Role models serve as an example that if you work hard enough, in this often unfair world where the odds are almost never in your favor (yes, I used a Hunger Games reference) you can be recognized for trying to make a difference. More importantly, however, you can be recognized for making that difference.
A role model is by no means perfect. They make mistakes, have flaws, but despite their apparent short comings, role models have one thing in common – they motivate the individual to better themselves by stepping outside the traditional boxed mindset of the world.
Despite contrary beliefs, living in Pakistan I have many female role models: my mother, Fatima Jinnah, Nergis Mavalvala, Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy - even Maria. B makes the list- and many, many more.
Now you may be thinking these women all belong to different periods in history, are a merge of past, present, future and have entirely different backgrounds and fields in which they have excelled. From politics to fashion designing. So, how can one person have such a diverse range of role models?
My answer is simple. The commonality that all these ladies hold, and the value that I cherish the most, is the fact that they broke stereotypical barriers in society and the international community. They did this by not only questioning the status quo related to the role of women in society but, making a reference to Taylor Swift, by “[building] a castle out of all the bricks [society threw at them]” when it said “no, you cannot do that”. Well, these women went ahead and did it anyway; and in doing so succeeded not only the men in the field, but the community at large.
That is why on a personal level I find it very upsetting to discover many Pakistani female scientists featured in the curriculum just do not exist! The educational curriculum in Pakistan does not list or name ANY female scientists as examples or role models. This is true whether the subject is Pakistan Studies, History or even Social Studies. Something I find particularly horrific is the fact that not only government schools, but both private and public sector schools as well, exclude biographies, names, and achievements of Pakistani female scientists from their syllabus.
This saddening fact resulted in me interviewing a few primary and secondary school teachers and asking them the gut wrenching question
- Why doesn't the education system feature female scientists in curriculum or education syllabus?
Mariam Khan had this to say –
“The historical absence of women in mainstream scientific records because of their gender ineligibility leaves young girls unaware of great female scientists who they can look up to or idolize. Science textbooks are found to convey gender biases through images of boys/men in white lab-coats or also the gender bias language found such as "him/he". When girls are developing their interests in school, it becomes clear that science is a boys-only subject. Textbooks also fail to mention female scientists, which can be understood by the historical absence of acknowledging women within the science academia. The mention of accomplished female scientists in textbooks can help encourage women to develop a passion in science subjects.”
Shafaf Kayani - A teacher at "Kids and Co" play and preschool had this to say -
" They ( Female scientists) are not included on the basis that their scientific works and research are not promoted and are undermined. It is believed that students must be aware of the men scientists and their works because of a certain mindset. This mindset not only undermines the female scientists and their contributions to science but also undermines the interest of female students.
Never in my teaching experience I have heard a female saying she wants to be a scientist."
Just a quick point to note:
Before everyone goes on a bashing rant that Pakistan is the only nation to completely isolate women scientists from the educational syllabus let me be clear that this is not the case.
Firstly, although many developed nations such as United States of America, Russia, China and Canada may include female scientists in curriculum, the current space that is being given to female scientists in the curriculum could further be expanded.
In comparison to the developed world, Pakistan may not give voice to female scientists in its curriculum, however, this is partly rectified by teachers in normal class room discussions. Oftentimes in these discussions Tasneem Zehra Hussain, Doctor Saima Rasheed and Professor Bina Shaheen Siddiqui become frequent names.
In fact, at the recent Froebel’s graduating class of 2016 the guest speaker invited by the school was Professor Bina Shaheen Siddiqui. This example was just of a high school. As a further example of this, The National University of Science and Technology (NUST) has an article titled “Women in Science” in their "I R Nustian" blog made by their NUST Science Society which highlights the roles of women in science.
This in itself illustrates that the gaps which exist in terms of school curriculum are being ameliorated while exchanging general knowledge in class discussions between student and teacher. Therefore, the vacuum in the educational syllabus criteria is by no means reflective of the statement that female scientists in Pakistan are not valued. In actuality, one of the greatest assets we, as citizens of Pakistan, possess are our female scientists and their exemplary achievements in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
Moreover, we are living in a world where people learn and interact mainly via social media. In many Pakistani universities students get exposure to Pakistani female scientists and their work via blogs, national newspaper articles and other social media platforms such as twitter, Facebook, slide-share presentations and so on.
For example, the blog “Speech of Pakistan” has an article dedicated to elaborating and glorifying the female scientist success stories of our society. This goes to show that the educational curriculum in Pakistan is no longer generic in nature ( at least on a university level). This pointedly, given that a student is allowed to study and explore different role models and success stories which may sidetrack from the traditional bandwagon of conventional topics, people and field/s of study. Then why are there no female Scientists in Curriculum for the young minds of Pakistan to take inspiration from?
Some of you readers may think I am exaggerating or sugar coating the importance our government gives in respecting and honoring our female scientist, and it may very well be true. The syllabus in Pakistan does not represent or list female scientists and their contributions. However, I recently came across the Pakistan Council of Science and Technology official website, which has dedicated a whole page and area to female scientists in Pakistan. Additionally it has made it easier for these teachers to be hired by universities and schools.
This leads me to conclude that our society, despite being male dominated, encourages, empowers and represents female scientists in a proud and courageous light.
The fault lies in the institutions,
Newton’s Third Law : Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.
If only these academic institutions understood the effects that the lack of female representation in science textbooks can have they would think twice before not including women scientists.
For example, if female scientists are not represented in the syllabus it will likely have a direct impact on female participation in science related activities. This in the long run will further limit females entering careers in the field of science.
As Mariam Khan so eloquently put it “Science, like history and art have been run by academies or councils which determined who from the related field could be a member. Throughout history, these governing bodies were male dominated and denied women access.”
I could not agree with her statement more, sadly, the educational institutions by either being too lazy, too corrupt, or male dominated has simply not bothered to alter the education curriculum. They are failing to meet the mentality of this generation of Pakistani citizens. We need to feature our very talented Pakistani Female Scientists in the curriculum for our future generations to take inspiration from. Citizens which take pride in their female scientists and see them as role models breaking barriers, pushing boundaries, leading by example and changing the world, one step towards science at a time.
Vivacious. And making waves.
“Intimidation, harassment and violence have no place in a democracy.” - Mo Ibrahim.
Workplace harassment in Pakistan is a FACT.
Harassment is a major issue in the workplace and it affects millions of workers, especially in Pakistan. Most people here know what "harassment" means, however their ideas are vague on the different types of harassment that exist. Therefore, let me first slightly elaborate on the different types of harassment that exist.
I find women to be the soul of every nation and with the great paradigm shift in the process of globalization, women are entering the market place more rapidly than ever before. This is forming an empowering symbol of what women can do at work, not just at home, through the utilization of their skilled work and innate talent.
Unfortunately, there are a few grotesque vultures that have taken the development of women entering the workplace as a window to promote and perform violence and mistreatment against women. Whether the reason for this is to halt women from progressing in society or whether it is the simple inability of some men to control their desires in the workplace, it is an act strongly condemned in Pakistan and there is no rational or irrational justification for harassment of women at work.
This is precisely why one can state there is no doubt that workplace harassment is real and not a myth in Pakistan, South Asia and across the world.
Research was carried out in Europe by UNISON in 2008 which estimates that up to 50% of female employees in European Union countries have experienced sexual harassment. This is an appalling number.
However, the honesty that prevails in these research results reflects the societal mindset in European countries, where people are open to talk about harassment, file a case, and have the culprit face the consequences.
Unfortunately, workplace harassment in Pakistan, and especially in the smaller cities or villages, is seen as a “taboo” topic. A topic which, if brought up, is considered to leave a tainted mark on the honor of a woman, despite the harassment not being her fault. This is why most Pakistani women do not report their case of workplace harassment.
Additional reasons for workplace harassment going unreported are mentioned below:
However, despite the issue of workplace harassment in Pakistan being seen as a "taboo" topic, surprisingly the government of Pakistan, NGO’s and citizens of Pakistan have come together over the last seven years to conceptually and pragmatically put an end to harassment; or at least implement ways to end workplace harassment.
In 2010 “The Protection against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act” was signed by President Asif Ali Zardari. Turning this bill into law was a huge step for the nation. This law gave women such as me the mental peace of knowing that if such an incident occurred at the workplace, I could protect myself from the culprit under this law.
From a local lens, one of the few NGO’s to this end that exist in Pakistan is called AASHA – the word itself means “Hope”. A hope to root out harassment, especially of women, from society.
This NGO’s aim, like many other such NGO’s in Pakistan, is to raise awareness on the issue of harassment and assist the government and private sectors in the creation of a society free of sexual harassment. This, I feel, is a great step towards changing Pakistani mentality and eradicating the disease of harassment from our societal environment.
A working paper was recently published by Munir Moosa Sadruddin titled “Sexual Harassment at Workplace in Pakistan- Issues and Remedies about the Global Issue at Managerial Sector”
This paper articulately addresses the implementation of women rights in Pakistan and the harassment faced by women in the workplace, as well as the practical implementation of the Bill of 2010. Which *spoiler alert*, without implementation value just seems like a piece of paper.
Before, we discuss the practical implementation of bills and laws passed in Pakistan, I made a brief timeline to illustrate the events pertaining to sexual harassment in Pakistan.
Year 2010 :
If you would like further detailed information on these laws and bills passed kindly visit Tracking Laws: Protection against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act.
Readers, as you can tell from the timeline, on paper it seems Pakistan is more than efficiently tackling the problem of workplace harassment; however, as the article by Express Tribune suggests, the practical implementation of laws against workplace harassment is weak in nature.
The question that arises then is what is the long term solution to eliminate workplace harassment in Pakistan?
And in my perspective the solution rests in educating the people of Pakistan. We as a community must step up and make the change. Those reading this article need to understand one point: here is the cure. We can all make a difference which will together form a chain reaction, catalyzing the removal of this pesky weed of harassment from the beautiful garden that is our society.
Leave talking; Start doing-
Here are a list of simple steps you can implement to end harassment in Pakistan:
Lastly, do not shy away from talking about this topic. In the event of harassment reporting your case, remember that it is YOUR “haqq”, YOUR right granted to you by your state, by your religion, by the fact that YOU are a human being. Who knows if in being brave you are helping other women to step forward and be strong as well, and perhaps in the process, preventing someone else from being harassed.
Useful Youtube Links; you are not alone..
Vivacious. And making waves.
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.
Pakistan has a major chunk of population which is lying idle as an inactive member of the labour force. In order to avoid the wastage of this resource, the reasons which hinder their active participation in the economy must be addressed. A major cause for non-participatory workforce is the inability of the people to go out of their home to find work, especially women. Women are generally looked upon as the only ones to fulfill domestic responsibilities, for which they often must find convenient ways to earn from home in Pakistan.
Earning from home has various advantages. It saves the cost of daily commute from work to home, it has flexible working hours, it helps you spend more time with your friends and family and above all it gives you confidence and a sense of empowerment because you contribute to the economy.
There are various ways in which you can earn from home but I have listed 10 of them for you.
1. Graphic Designing:
Freelancer.pk, upwork.com, peopleperhour.com and many more bring the employee and employer in contact. Those who want to work from home can take online projects from these certified and authentic websites and work according to their comfort level. Short graphic designing courses are offered by various institutions and online, too which can help you enhance your skills at the job.
2. Article writing and blogging:
Various websites are looking for potential bloggers and content writers on a daily basis. There are plenty of them advertised on freelancer, Craigslist, fiverr, freelance writing gigs, etc. This task not only earns you a handsome amount but also gives you the opportunity of enhancing your knowledge by researching a varied range of topics. It is also a neat little entry in your resume while you sit and earn from home in Pakistan.
4. DIY projects:
One form of creative work which can be done from home, and can still earn you an honest paycheck is by marketing something you’ve been doing just for leisure or that has been your passion. If you are good at crafts, designing clothes, creating party props, etc. then all you need is to cash your talent. Market your idea well using social media outlets or by involving a few friends and start off from a lower scale to start to earn from home in Pakistan. Once things start gaining ground, launch something new. This can be a continuous process of re-creating and experimenting what you love.
Another resourceful way of making efficient use of your knowledge and earn at the same time is through mentoring or tutoring. You can always offer your services to kids in the local vicinity, or even online. If you think you were good at a particular subject in your college or university or you recently took training for a certain skill which you think other people might need as well, you can definitely earn through it.
Consultancy is gaining immense popularity these days. Earning by giving your expert opinion about things which others might find difficult is an increasing source of income for people who have the ease of working from home. Providing consultancy on Human Resource, legal issues, real estate market, etc. are a few popular one. You can connect to a specific group which provides consultancy or you can either provide your services as a freelancer.
7. Virtual Assistant:
If you are good at data entry, managing social tasks, managing emails, creating data presentations, doing online research, etc. then a job of a Virtual Assistant is fit for you. Freelancer and Upwork have many job postings of virtual assistants which are well-paid and easy to comply with while being at home.
Cooking and selling stuff that your family and friends compliment you for, can be a great business idea. Cook from home and sell it to people at their door step. This can become fairly easy if you are passionate about cooking or baking. You can use a few marketing strategies to create a buzz about your business and then start off.
9. Social Media Manager:
Jobs which require managing social media accounts of a specific organization or personalities is also a home-based task. This task earns you well, depending upon the time which your employer asks you to spend online. Freelancer, staff.com and many more advertise such jobs on a regular basis. All you need is a few SEO skills and efficient use of social media networks.
10. Customer Service Agent:
A customer service agent’s job requires you to be an organization’s representative and communicate with its customers on its behalf. It is usually outsourced and home-based, enabling you to establish yourself and earn from home in Pakistan. Upwork has a variety of customer service agent jobs displayed. A good internet connection, efficient English-speaking (generally) and communication skills can make you fit for this job.
Be the change you want to see.
In 2050 one would assume the world is likely to resemble the matrix in terms of technological developments and advancements in science. However, for a nation such as Pakistan that is to be far from the case. But we are getting ahead of ourselves, before we further elaborate the continuing of predictions on Pakistan in 2050, I feel an introduction is owed to those reading this blast from the future.
If you are expecting to read a rosy report on Pakistan’s progress in science in the year 2050 I am very likely to disappoint. So, you might as well just stop reading, as sadly, our nation does not resemble Robert Zemeckis film Back to the Future in any way, shape or form. There are no hover boards being ridden and no robot driven flying cars. Thus, the traffic jam struggle in 2050 is still very much real in Lahore and Karachi.
To be honest, the progress of science in Pakistan looks grim in the year 2050, but this should at least come as no surprise to the citizens residing here because in the past (those reading this, it’s your present) not enough input in terms of funds and investment in the field of science was put into what could have been a great scientifically progressive nation. Partly because the the government make it a top priority to invest in “R and D” (Research and Development) of science.
This point may seem justifiable to some, as on one hand it can be argued that with the extent of poverty, rising illiteracy and the unjust judicial system, Pakistan has a lot more to worry about than just improving its progress in science. Which with all due respect is accurate, but the argument from the future is this; for Pakistan to emerge as a key player in the international arena and rise as a super power in South Asia it needs to develop and grow as a nation. A huge part of this involves investing time and resources into science and progressing forward in all fields related to science.
The importance of this statement can be justified by for a minute imagining a Pakistan without nuclear capability. Many International Relations Analysts argue that Pakistan might have had a similar situation to that of Syria or Afghanistan if it was not for its nuclear capacity. Perhaps all of which would not have been possible had it not been for advancements in science.
Moreover, it is important to understand that for a nation such as Pakistan progress in science would not solely benefit the nation’s status in the international arena, but would help the citizens of Pakistan in terms of health, better standards of living and quality of life. All of which is drastically needed by 2050 for people to utilize their resources in the most efficient and sustainable manner. The gateway towards all of these gains is science. The key therefore rests in the hands of the government and the citizens of Pakistan to make progression in science a top priority by changing the simple mind- set that short term solutions to long term problems is not always the accurate answer.
More crucially what needs to be understood is this, that even in developing countries such as Pakistan the common link between the year 2016 and the year 2050 is that science has become a part of everyday life. For example, even in the rural areas of Pakistan's villages they have access to the internet and almost everyone has a mobile phone.
This raises the point that instead of our nation utilizing or should i say brutalizing science for power and political gain, it should shift its scientific functions for progress in social welfare, construction, positive contribution in society and consequently bringing about a fruitful change in the Pakistan and the world via scientific progression. This point was elaborated beautifully in “future of science and technology in Pakistan”, a paper by Dr Abdul Rehman Memon.
Furthermore, every Pakistani citizen should consider advancements in the field of Science their moral duty, as they owe it to numerous historical Muslim scientists and their predecessors to carry the name of Islam alongside science. This could not have been more eloquently put by this marvelously enlightening and scientifically enriching article titled “Pakistan’s future: innovation”
But readers do not be disheartened by the current image of science in Pakistan 2050, for there exists a light at the end of the tunnel.
I am happy to report that there has been a drastic increase in the number of women applying in the field of Science, technology, engineering and math, (S.T.E.M) in 2050. A lot more women have graduated from universities across Pakistan with degrees in the fields pertaining to Science, technology, engineering and math., and now we have a lot more Pakistani Female Scientists like myself. This is a direct result of societal change that has taken place in Pakistan due to the effects of globalization, women empowerment and fueling of female education in Pakistan.
As a direct consequence of which in the year 2050 the female population of Pakistan shall be having a more enlightened scientific spirit of thought. This is partly due to the social changes that shall have occurred by the year 2050 in terms of women being conscious of their role as social activists of S.T.E.M, but mainly because it seems like a natural phenomena to be interested in the pursuit of truth and facts rather than continuing one's belief in superstitious nonsense. It is for this precise reason that the majority of women in Pakistan, except for the unpopular few, shall no longer succumb to reading their horoscopes in "Sunday times" or turning to palmists and peers for a change in fate. Illustrating the point of view that rational thought, especially among women, shall prevail more than ever in 2050.
Lastly, though in the development of science Pakistan has a long way to go, you might recall you are reading a post from the future, therefore; you still have time to adapt and change your ways. If there is one lesson to be taken away from this article, it is that if the government of Pakistan does not implement change, reform and establish scientific institutions, and the citizens of Pakistan do not amend their ideological thought of undermining and under valuing the great gifts of scientific progression, then the future of science shall go from bleak to bleaker. As what is today's science is tomorrows technological effectiveness.
Vivacious. And making waves.
“When I was a child, when I was an adolescent, books saved me from despair that convinced me that culture was the highest of values.” - Simone de Beauvoir on culture.
In the sociological theoretical framework there lies no doubt that indeed culture plays an influential role in shaping the minds of those belonging to a particular society. Culture aids in the socialization process of a child. It can be safely said that culture shapes a child's interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields majorly. Being a fundamentally cultural oriented nation Pakistan is no exception to this natural rule of law.
How Pakistani Culture shapes a child's interest in STEM:
While speaking of the Pakistani culture it is important to understand that irrespective of economic class, religious creed, gender or tribe Pakistani’s truly value education in its purest form as a system to elevate, inform and reform the lives of those privileged enough to be a part of it whether their role be that of teacher or student. This is because for most families living here education is not seen as some commonplace “task” to be performed by the child nor some preordained and governed “obligation.” on the parent. Despite contrary beliefs education is seen as a beacon of hope, a light in a room full of darkness, an opportunity for a better standard of life; and a foundation for a better quality of life. Such deep statements are not just metaphorically heavy but weigh heavily on the child’s conscious too. This is because the majority of children in Pakistan see education as a pragmatic and realistic strategy that can alter their lives for the better.
Furthermore, with regard to cultural influence of science, technology, engineering and math in Pakistan it is also pivotal to understand that realistically before educational institutions can focus on engaging children actively in the field of S.T.E.M the government needs to take a greater leap forward in investing in educational institutions. Currently Pakistan spends only 2.5pc of its GDP on education, one of the lowest rates in the world; with appalling figures such as these it’s safe to say that at this current junction in time our educational institutions are simply not delivering or rather not being given the fair and honest chance to.
This was clearly stated in the Dawn News article – “Education in Pakistan” and I fully agree with the statement that the discrimination that can be found within the educations system needs to be addressed. However, on a more positive note the fact that such issues are even being brought to light and discussed on such wide platforms with solutions and critics posed every day raises the belief that there is still hope for educational reform via cultural enlightenment in Pakistan.
Despite this traditional mind set adapting to suit the needs of modern day society it will take Pakistan just like any other developed nation before it truly achieves an egalitarian societal model. In which both male and female population of society are equally given the educational opportunities with regard to S.T.E.M. however, it is also important to portray a realistic picture and understand that no society is Utopian in nature. Thus, complete egalitarianism in any field, especially the field of education some sociologists would argue is not something that can be achieved in developed societies let alone developing ones such as Pakistan.
However, this being said given closer observation of the culture of Pakistan only 30 years back a lot of emphasis was placed on the males of the family picking subjects suited to S.T.E.M. such as mathematics and sciences especially so that later on boys would excel in job fields that catered to such professions such as mechanical engineering, computer engineering, doctors and so on.
While society socialised females in their subconscious minds to opt for subjects such as social sciences or “soft” subjects so that females in particular learned to knit, sow, iron in order to fit the traditional western and eastern gender roles. For examples; in Lahore attaining a bachelor’s degree from home economics was considered the height of educational refinement for a young lady.
Backtracking there is no doubt Pakistan has come a long way from the traditional gender roles and yet it is also true that the nation has still has a long way to go however in that case, so does the western world. For in many western cultures, such as that of the Unites States only recently has the debate emerged as to whether children from an early age should be exposed to the ideas and opportunities of S.T.E.M. Questions have arose as to when is the best possible time or optimum age that a child should be allowed to engage in S.T.E.M related subjects?
This question was answered eloquently by the NAAEE as their feature story illustrates that it is never too early to start a child’s education on S.T.E.M. this is because growth and knowledge of any kind is beneficial for a child, regardless of whether the child is a young girl or a young boy. This societal advancement and understanding of exposing children to S.T.E.M has not yet emerged in Pakistan but given the current trends of our generation’s men and women the future of educational enlightenment with regard to science, technology, engineering and math (S.T.E.M) seems bright. And soon Pakistan too shall follow in the path of other western educational models that are emerging with regard to this field of study.
I recently conducted a questionnaire asking 10 children; 5 girls and 5 boys from Froebel's International High School to rate their experience with math from; excellent, good, fair to poor. The findings of my study were as follows:
3/5 girls; (Meesha Baig, Minahil Mansoor and Minal) rated their experience with math as “good”. While Aimal Shoaib and Maresha rated their experience with math as “fair.” In contrast 4/5 boys (Asr, Yaqub, Huzaifa and Naseerullah) rated their experience with math as “excellent” while Hamza Erkin rated his experience as “fair.”
In this social experiment all the children come from similar socio- economic and cultural backgrounds. However, their performance in maths on a gender basis varied greatly. This could be due to each child’s own individual interest in the subject itself which is reflective in their mathematical experience, as children with a keener interest in maths are more likely to focus more in class and see math as a fun activity that stimulates the mind rather than just "homework". Supporting the view point that yes, culture does influence a child’s interest in S.T.E.M however, other factors such as the child’s personality, the opportunities of tuition that some children can avail while others cannot and many others should also be taken into account.
More importantly, Ralph Linton’s work regarding acquired status and achieved status can be ideologically applied to culture as well. For acquired culture can be representative of an individual’s own culture and heritage while achieved culture can be reflective of what the individual have themselves done other than their socialization to attain educational and academic enlightenment in the field of S.T.E.M. After all men and women are products of the sum of all their parts, not just one particular piece.
Vivacious. And making waves.
According to the statistics provided by the Pakistan Council of Science and Technology, more than 18 percent of women are employed in different fields of science. Among these 18 percent, majority opts for medical sciences, natural sciences and fields related to engineering and technology.
Science is one of those subjects that is taught from the pre-primary level of education till the post-doctorate level which naturally gives it an edge in terms of a preferred field of study. According to the system of education in Pakistan, Matriculation or O’levels is the time where students get to choose what they want to study. Unfortunately, Matriculation, which has a much greater enrollment rate, gives very limited options. Biology and computers are the only optional subjects whereas; physics and chemistry are taught alongside. No other subjects like accountancy, arts, etc. are offered unlike the O’levels examination system. This limited choice and the only subject towards which the interest of the students is being channelized, makes science a widely preferred choice among students.
Not only this, science subjects are seen as ‘safe’ career choices by parents, who make most of the academic decisions for women till their secondary level of education. Considering the limited options which the education system has to offer in Pakistan, parents are inclined towards professions in the medical sciences or engineering for their children. Even if women choose for themselves, they prefer a science-related field because they’ve been exposed to those subjects only by the time they get into a university.
Science, however, guarantees a professional path as opposed to a mere educational qualification. Women generally make safe career choices which help them focus towards a particular aim in their life and because of this they choose science. It might seem like an orthodox view but most women prefer medical sciences because they want to end up as a doctor and those who prefer physics and mathematics, want to be engineers in a particular field. They, therefore, choose a career for themselves and not only a degree.
Pakistani women today are not only setting standards in the field of science and technology but are also defying the odds in male-dominated careers related to science. Jehan Ara, the President of Pakistan Software Houses Association (P@SHA), one of the nineteen fighter pilots in Pakistan Air Force, Ayesha Farooq, Kalsoom Lakhani whose the founder and CEO of one of the best start-ups accelerator, Invest2Innovate (i2i) in Pakistan are a few worth mentioning. There are however many more who might not be in the spotlight as yet but are striving hard to be among the worlds renowned. Various startups have been initiated by women graduates from renowned engineering institutions, there are accomplished female doctors all over the country and more women are pursuing degrees in mathematics.
The growing complexities of the modern world have increased the urge of playing a significant role in the development of this country. Women tend to play their part by opting a career path which equips them with the technical skill set required to deal with these complexities. Along with this, the growth opportunities like, scholarships, research grants, combined research programmes with foreign universities, quotas in medical colleges, establishment of tech incubation centers, etc. are on the rise in the area of science and technology which has encouraged women to take up this field of education. Science has and will be the most popular subject for women, however, a little more assistance by the government in legislative and financial terms can be highly motivating.
Be the change you want to see.
“If you want to find the secrets of universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibrations.”
This statement always inspires me because it teaches me that what you will learn depends on how you think. After studying mathematics and engineering, you always look at everything from the glasses of science. Interestingly science and logic are knitted together; that is logical thinking makes deductions easy in a scientific journey while science always welcomes the logical conclusions. Science involves great deal of curiosity and observation, for which logic provides software to process information in order to reach a scientific conclusion. Scientific thinking and logic are combinable to achieve a level of thinking in which scientific observations keep the mind busy in making premises and looking for conclusions. Premise or hypothesis is a statement which may or may not be true. Therefore, if the logical processing nullifies the initial hypothesis, the contradiction of your point is true and you are never ever at the losing end. The idea is so captivating for our mind that it eventually starts breaking our day to day matters, observations, and conflicts into different hypotheses and processes it in logical way. It will reject the compartmentalization of knowledge; constructing an equation for each thinking problem, keeping in mind the useful variables and external hazards, will help reaching far better decisions. Scientific attitude is the Elixir for learning and once you train your mind to think scientifically, most of your judgements would be coherent, unbiased and precise. Because what we infer directly influences our choices, and agreement or disagreement on something; and to some extent our beliefs as well.
Scientific attitude is the Elixir for learning and once you train your mind to think scientifically, most of your judgements would be coherent, unbiased and precise.
When I started looking from the glasses of science at human organ systems, functionality of living organisms and associated phenomenon, I was compelled to say wow! How precisely are we put together to form a working unit or a system! Certainly all branches of science and engineering could be originated by getting inspiration from single human unit; it combines learning process, 3 – 6 DOF (degree of freedom) motions, sensing organs, structure and design, inter-dependence of systems and organs, connectivity and networking through nervous system, communication through plasma and liquid, cycles and loops, control and feedback, perception, energy and ATPs (adenosine triphosphate), forces, balancing of forces, chemicals and reactions, transmitting and receiving mechanisms, programming, signaling, focus, electric current, absorption, diffusion, light, resonance, resistance, friction, thresholds, evolution, time, concept of birth and death, waves and propagation, memory storage and what not. From an Amoeba in this universe to a superior automatic being e.g. human body, everything is scientifically engineered. Mechanical cushioning provided to the baby by Amniotic fluid says so much about fluid dynamics. Sparrow’s stark maneuvers and weightless plunges astonish me how remarkably opposite forces are fighting to keep it in the air. Pendant droplets of water in a perfect shape are signs of how surface tension affects the falling liquid. When my hand burnt from a blistering spoon kept in a pan on stove, I realized what transfer of heat actually is. When I can’t see in dark, I thank for the light that reflects into eyes to give me an illusion of vision. Scientific thinking leads scientists to discover, invent, coming up with new ideas, contradictions and eventually a scientific truth. That’s how new theories emerge and sometimes substitute the old ones. Probably that’s why Archimedes’ principle transpired while he was taking bath and Newton’s thought process stimulated by hit of an apple. From using batteries to throwing ball in the air, children are naively witnessing occurrences which involve conversion of energy from one form to another. A falling pencil changes mathematical relation at every point before it reaches ground. The conversion of day and night translates the motion of Earth which we can’t feel.
We inhale air but or body needs oxygen from that air which comprises 78% of nitrogen. The way lungs filter excessive nitrogen from the air, gives us the idea of using filtration. The exhaled gases, having excessive carbon dioxide, are consumed by plants; it illuminates me how interdependence and cycles are supporting coexistence. Colossal spiral galaxies, disparaging hurricanes, shells of miniature snails, sensitive cochlea in ear, fighting helical pitch of hawk, and seed heads produced in delicate sunflower, are all mysterious illustrations in nature of the same Fibonacci series. From seismic dissipation to ozone depletion, it alludes to some chemistry. Even the holy and most read book, Quran states expressions like "will you not take heed?", "...there is a sign for thinking men". Holy Bible emphasis on thinking in these words, “She does not ponder the path of life; her ways are unstable, she does not know it.” Thus no religion promotes rigidity in the world but how you perceive it, does.
Before we endorse “freedom to express”, we need to inculcate “freedom to think”.
Philosophy is a gradient which needs to be precisely attuned to grasp rationality and accuracy. One reason, among many, that constrained us in producing quality research and prominent scientists in Pakistan, for quite some time, is because we reject the idea of questioning. Suppressing curiosity or satisfying it with pre conceived notions leads to stereotypical mindset. Creative thinking transpires from phases of curiosity, inquiry, investigation, skepticism, contradiction and refutation of ideas, and open-mindedness. Before we endorse “freedom to express”, we need to inculcate “freedom to think”. Don’t stop someone’s journey of finding an answer just because you don’t know it. Let everyone make their own hypothesis and evaluate statistics to come to conclusion, contradict the ideas with evidences and logic. Most importantly, remember not all premises are always true. Get intrigued, and keep questioning, this can be our first step to think scientific.
“Don't be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth.” ― Rumi
Women Engineers Pakistan was invited for an interactive discussion on “Hitting the Road on Mars" with NASA Engineer Ms. Nagin Cox, where she talked about the importance of global teamwork required to step into new horizons. Ms. Nagin educated us about the robotic mission to Mars, "Curiosity" of which she was a vital part. She also talked about the importance of women taking an active part in progress, the barriers that they face worldwide, and the best ways to tackle problems in different cultures. Having a NASA Engineer in Pakistan was not only inspirational, but also gave courage that women can breach new barriers everywhere!
NASA Engineer Ms. Nagin Cox meets WEP!
The most important part of the session was where she shed light on the insignificant speck-like existence of the Earth, and the urgent need for global team work and harmony to spread further in the universe.
All in all, the session was immensely educating pertinent to space, robotic missions, life on Mars and mostly regarding the role women have yet to play.