* This article is part of a press release distributed by SMEC (Member of the Surbana Jurong Group)
SMEC Senior Programmer Mobina Zafar was named Young Female Professional of the Year at the Surbana Jurong (SJ) International Awards held in Brisbane, Australia in December 2018.
Based in Lahore, Pakistan with her husband Husnain and one-year-old son Rayyan, Mobina has been working with SMEC, a member of the Surbana Jurong group of companies, since 2012. The annual SJ International Awards recognise the most outstanding employees, projects and innovations of the Surbana Jurong Group, which operates in more than 40 countries. From a number of exceptional nominees, Mobina was chosen for her technical skill, innovation and dedication.
“Mobina played a key role in pioneering the development of a Project Management and Monitoring Information System (PMIS) for our water resources projects here in Pakistan”, said Ahsam Arshad, SMEC Director Pakistan. “These systems are key to monitoring progress and risk on very significant infrastructure and energy projects.”
“Thanks to Mobina’s skill, dedication and hard work, this system has largely been developed in-house, under the supervision and guidance of technical specialists.”
For her part, Mobina says she is ‘humbled and honoured’ to have been named Young Female Professional of the Year. “We are a global group of companies with thousands of experts – to have my efforts be acknowledged is a really great feeling.”
Mobina grew up in a family that values learning, with both parents working in Pakistan’s education sector. “My mother has worked as a secondary school principal and education development officer. She’s a real source of inspiration and, along with my father, has been a role model for me throughout my life.”
Her siblings opted to study engineering and information technology, and she recalls being excited by digital transformation from a young age. “Information technology has changed our world and this fascinates me! It’s why I chose to do my graduate degree in Computer Sciences and later completed a Master of Science in Software Engineering.”
One might imagine that, sitting behind a computer working with digits and software, Mobina is removed from the project coalface. In reality, she says that one of the most rewarding aspects of her role is seeing the direct link between her work and the community. “Pakistan is an agriculturist country, so irrigation systems are really the backbone of our economy. Our project management team used the Project Management Information System to effectively monitor progress and manage project deadlines and resources on a significant water infrastructure project for the Government of Punjab. The project supports irrigated agriculture which accounts for 28% of Punjab's gross domestic product (GDP) and is making a difference to over 275,000 rural households in the area who derive their livelihood from crops.” Mobina also had the opportunity to work on project sites, which she describes as ‘thrilling’ and a ‘life-long learning experience’.
The Project Management Information System has now been implemented on several major projects in Pakistan and has been recommended for implementation across the South Asia and Middle East region. “I’m really excited to see my work being leveraged across the world and am looking forward to implementing more innovative ideas in 2019.”
Reflecting on her career success, Mobina names several factors that have been fundamental to successfully managing her roles as wife, mother and senior software programmer.
“I’ve been very consistent and focused in my work, but I’ve also had the constant support of my supervisors and my family throughout my career. This has made a huge difference. My current manager at SMEC, Mr. Abdul Mussawar Waqar, has mentored and guided me throughout my professional carrier. And I couldn’t have done it without the support of my husband, Husnain Ishtiaq, who is always standing beside me.”
“It’s not always easy, especially when my son Rayyan was born. But I manage all my roles with the great support of my family, parents-in-law, and my company. After returning from maternity leave I was able to benefit from the day care facility that SMEC provides at the office.”
“My son is my real motivation and aspiration at work. Every day when I come home and he receives me at the door with his smile and sparkling eyes, it’s like I’ve regained all my energy.”
Mobina is keen to see more females study for and take up careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). “We should support and motivate more females in Pakistan to enter STEM fields. Information technology is such an exciting sector with tremendous opportunity for innovation and learning.”
Training to be a female programmer in a traditionally male-dominated industry has not been without its challenges. “There are certain perceived barriers for females in STEM fields, mostly based on stereotypes and cultural ethos, and I was not an exception. I accepted and overcame these challenges with the encouragement and support of my parents, husband, friends and colleagues at SMEC. It is true there are barriers, but I feel the way to break them down is to demonstrate our true potential and quality contribution to our fields.”
“I want to encourage young women to identify their potential and add their valuable contribution to the industries that are shaping our world.”
Mobina Zafar is a senior software programmer at SMEC, a global a global engineering, management and development consultancy
Corporate Communications and Marketing Manager,
SMEC (Member of the Surbana Jurong Group)
Pakistani Women in Space: Meet Zartaj Waseem, CEO & Co-Founder Pakistan Space Science Education Centre
Did you think that Pakistani women are not passionate about science? Well, you were wrong. Meet Zartaj Waseem, a STEAM Education specialist (a software engineer by profession) focused on transforming the methods of teaching and learning Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math (STEAM). Zartaj is the CEO and Co-founder of Pakistan Space Science Education Centre. She is pioneering & spearheading Pakistan's first ever Space Science Education initiative focused on exploration of Mars. And that's not half of it! She is leading Destination Imagination (DI), a US-based STEAM Program at Haque Academy, focal person of National Organizer in Pakistan for World Robot Olympiad (WRO) on behalf of STEM360, and is the first Pakistani STEAM Education Professional to be designated as Global STEM Corps Advisor for FIRST Global and also as an International Award Judge. Zartaj, you are truly a Role Model for many women and girls in Pakistan!
Women Engineers Pakistan got in touch with Zartaj, and of course we couldn't wait to share her incredible achievements with all of you! Here is what Zartaj had to say about her path as an engineer and as an educator:
I was born in Karachi and belonged to a middle class family. My father is a Mechanical & Electrical Engineer (retired) and I studied Science/Computer Science because I liked it. My grandfather wanted me to be a doctor however my parents gave me the liberty to pursue the career of my choice but they wanted good grades. My cousin who is associated with the field of IT (currently in the US) guided me towards the field of Computer Science and I ended up doing Software Engineering.
My favorite subject was English and Science. I didn’t like Math until I did Math in college and it was my math teachers because of whom I actually started liking the subject. I firmly believe that teaching strategies and imparting subject knowledge in an engaging way is a vital element for inspiring students. Many people have content/subject knowledge but not all of them can teach.
I certainly feel that studying Science and Mathematics was a very good decision, as it helped me apply subject knowledge while I was doing my degree in Software Engineering. I truly realized the importance of studying these subjects when I entered my professional life.
I am a STEM Education Professional, currently the CEO & Co-Founder of Pakistan Space Science Education Centre (PSSEC). My Co-Founder, Nahyan Farooq, Chief Design Officer (CDO) of PSSEC came up with the idea of introducing Space Science Education in Pakistan. He confided in my capabilities to join hands with him in inspiring and educating our young generation and present them with the quality STEM Education opportunities available to the children in the developed countries.
In addition to my corporate experience in the field of IT, I have enjoyed being in the STEM Education field since 2010. STEM Education was quite a novel idea back then and I have always wanted to do something different, something unique, and not just follow the trends. I find myself as more of a leader and trendsetter, somebody who confidently spearheads initiatives.
I founded the Robotics & STEM Studio at Haque Academy, followed by a leading role in establishing Pakistan’s first STEM Education organization, Robotics Labs. Becoming a coach/trainer for school kids Robotics teams and representing Pakistan at International Robotics Competitions with my teams namely, FIRST Lego League and Destination Imagination and as International Judge at FIRST Global.
This experience has led me to enjoy facing challenges when I try to execute and implement a new idea. I realized that Computer Science is a very diverse field, be it in the education or the corporate sector, it gives one the autonomy and flexibility to make almost everything possible. Yet, Software Engineering is a male dominated field. Although the team members I have worked with have always been very supportive and respectful, I feel that people do not have enough faith in a woman’s capabilities that she will be able to handle matters independently in such fields. Good news is that this has certainly improved over the years now.
STEM Education has been quite a game changer for me. I have been on a roller coaster ride all these years struggling to strike a balance between home/family and work. At the same time, I have been blessed with opportunities that I had never thought would come my way. My family has been quite understanding and supportive particularly my kids.
As far as where I derive inspiration from; Bill Gates has been my role model. His character trait of being innovative in ideas and introducing newer and better technology to the world has always inspired me.
I consider barriers as challenges to overcome, just like in a game you progress by overcoming obstacles and you keep trying until you succeed. I don’t think that these challenges are meant to stop us. I feel that barriers are there to make us change our strategy about approaching something and becoming better at it.
Girls are a miraculous creation of Allah. We have a very powerful role be it at home or outside home as a professional. First of all, it is very important to get education and then something that I have assimilated and found very useful is the skill of self-learning. If you are good at self-learning and you are self-motivated you are unstoppable. Our girls should be adaptable, assertive and committed to what they dream to achieve.
Inspired? Tell us about your Role Models in STEM!
Are you a woman in engineering? Or rather, are you a woman affiliated with any of the fields within the umbrella of science, technology, engineering, medicine and/or math? If yes, chances are you know how it feels to be a minority. Chances are you have been told you aren't made for engineering, that it's a field suitable only for boys, or that you shouldn't get the job as you'll leave when you get married (we know, duh!! We know..)
Here's the thing: We as women can either buy in to that narrative, and sit down - or we can change the narrative and reclaim this space.
June 23rd 2018 is the International Women in Engineering Day (trending as INWED). Here's our chance to turn the mic right back on. In 2018, the INWED theme is 'Raising The Bar'. Its time to show the world how you are raising the bar in STEM, and how your amazing work is paving way for new-coming women in STEM. Let's show them how your participation and existence matters. We created a few selfie cards for you. Download whichever you like most (or create your own), and share it on social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.) with the following hashtags:
#IlookLikeAnEngineer #WomenEngineersPakistan #WomenInScience #WomenInEngineering #WomenInSTEM #INWED18 #RaisingTheBar
Or grab a pen and write your own message:
And to our male allies: Your support is vital to the movement. Show support for women engineers by distributing these cards in the hallways of your office, classrooms, schools, colleges, universities and professional networks. Get people talking, start the conversation. The above cards are perfect to distribute among young people and get them interested about science, technology, engineering, math, medicine, and of course, art!
There is no lack of talent in Pakistan. Then why is there an immense gender gap in professional S.T.E.M. fields?
This article was originally published in The News International, and has been only slightly modified here.
If your answer was, “Gender gap doesn’t exist! Don’t you see how many women are present in medical colleges in Pakistan?,” then you’re half correct – and only painfully so. The International Day of Women and Girls in Science is celebrated on February 11th. Unfortunately, for Pakistan the gender parity ranking in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (also referred to as S.T.E.M.) fields is at rock bottom. While it seems like there isn’t much to celebrate in that fact, one can look at it as a gigantic window of colossal opportunity. Weeding out the causes of this dearth of females in S.T.E.M. can give an insight into what can be changed to tip the scales.
Yes, it starts from childhood. Very early on, almost before birth, the girl child is ostensibly pushed towards dolls and plastic cooking sets, while the boy is gifted with toy cars, building blocks, board games, and fascinating robots that stimulate his spatial and analytical faculties way before the parents set their children out to gain formal education. As it happens, children are incredibly attached to their toys, and have been observed to grasp creativity as well as social skills from the games they play. A research by the Association of Psychological Science [i] in January 2015 found that children who frequently play with puzzles, construction, and board games tend to have better cognitive abilities. For the girl child, on the other hand, no conscious effort is made to cultivate interest towards toys that focus on math, science, and construction activities. Recurrently, this disinterest is conveniently attributed to biology and shrugged off. According to an American Society for Engineering Education investigation of Amazon.com datasets, physics and engineering toys were each purchased at a rate of only about 8.5% for girls [ii]. Maybe in Pakistan there is some variation to the trend of buying toys based on a child’s gender. As to the question of how much, the answer is currently open to disdainful speculation.
What’s interesting to note here though, is that in Pakistan, 8th grade girls outperformed boys in all subjects by quite a large margin [iii]! If indeed it was the case that a girl’s mind is naturally and inherently not built for technological conquests, the girls would not have scored more in the educational assessments. The question remains then, what changes after 8th grade? Why do girls lose interest in fields relating to engineering, technology, math, physics etc.?
In Pakistan, more girls can comfortably choose to study in a medical university simply because these institutes already have an significant number of girls studying there already. Also, the abundant representation of women as doctors and pediatricians in TV serials and commercials have – to some limit – successfully normalized the presence of a female medical practitioner. But there is severe lack of relatable role models for Pakistani girls within science and tech, and particularly within engineering. It’s not that exceptional Pakistani women in S.T.E.M. don’t exist, it’s just that we have failed to amplify their presence and have neglected their tremendous achievements. Pakistani women are pilots, engineers, and pioneers! But how much of their trailblazing triumphs is common knowledge? Recently, at the Lahore Science Mela the Women Engineers Pakistan booth received pronounced attention from school-going girls and their parents. What personally struck me was when one lady mentioned how just having seen female representation at the science fair gave her courage, and boosted her morale about her own intellectual and academic abilities. Inspired by the upward spike in her confidence, Women Engineers Pakistan is now running a month-long campaign to highlight Pakistani women role models, in hopes to encourage future generations of engineers, technologists, and scientists.
Personally, I have received hundreds of emails from young girls asking which engineering field is the most “suitable for girls”. Every time I get this question, I die a little bit inside. Upon further inquisition, I often find that the family elders are not sure if the particular field will be safe for their girl child to navigate. Truth be told, I do not blame them. I would be just as concerned knowing what I know about workplace harassment within the tech sectors. The argument remains though, that while most S.T.E.M. occupations are dependent only on mental aptitudes, I have met some awe-inspiring female engineers who work on site. The only difference was that their organizations actually made direct efforts to keenly foster welcoming climates with dignity. Organizations that take an active stand for making their workplaces safer, and more accommodating have been seen to retain more women in S.T.E.M. fields.
Other than this, there exist One Million Micro-aggressions! While workplace and sexual harassment laws [iv] are already in place in Pakistan, there is a lot of ground between when a discomfiting event occurs and when the law comes in action. These distressing events can range from measly lewd stares to sneering remarks. But micro-aggressions come in all sizes. Stereotyping, making snap judgements of capabilities based on gender, assuming good fit / bad fit for promotion based on the boss’s assumption of whether or not the woman employee would be culturally at ease. For example, I was recently told by a male professor that female faculty are not so commonly hired in engineering because they cannot stay back late, do not want to take outdoor sessions, and do not want physical work. Such ease of generalization by expert opinion of a narrative that is not one’s own only goes to show the abundant existence of implicit bias, or more correctly put, unexamined bias. (As an additional note; no employee – male or female – should be staying back late. If an employee is routinely working after hours, it only indicates that they’re not organized enough to do the work within the time that was initially allotted to them!)
Equal pay based on gender is not mandated by the Government of Pakistan, or any law within the country [v]. Also, while Article 27 of the Constitution of Pakistan states that, “No citizen otherwise qualified for appointment in the service of Pakistan shall be discriminated against in respect of any such appointment on the ground only of race, religion, caste, sex, residence or place of birth”, this law is only applicable to the public sector. No such provisions exist for private sector. This law also is also providing leeway to gender-based occupational segregation, as it goes on to say, “Provided further that, in the interest of the said service, specified posts or services may be reserved for members of either sex if such posts or services entail the performance of duties and functions which cannot be adequately performed by members of the other sex,” leaving one wondering that who gets to decide what can be adequately performed by whom.
From a birds-eye view, Pakistan is moving forward to gender parity (albeit on an extremely slow rate). There are many efforts going on to highlight the gender gap, and organizations are taking fresh strides to recruit and retain more skilled women. One thing that is repeatedly coming to front is the concept of diversity. Diversity includes the many different social identities that give meaning to us, and the social groups that we belong to. Often social identity can make us appear different from others. Diversity is the “who and what”. It’s the headcount of who is at the table. Unfortunately, in Pakistan, involving one woman speaker at the panel of a tech conference, or having six female employees in a company of 10,000 workers is considered enough to be called a diverse atmosphere. What needs to be focused upon much more now is the concept of inclusion. Inclusion encircles the “how”. How is a S.T.E.M. organization embracing whatever diversity it has? Are the female employees provided with female toilets? Is there a day-care system available for working mothers? Are female bosses attentively listened to just as much as the male ones? Are female employees of the same rank being paid equal to their male counterparts? It’s often said, “without inclusion, there’s a diversity backlash.” In my experience of working directly with women in S.T.E.M., most women opt out of these male-dominated fields because of prevalent marginalizing cultures.
Women in Pakistan make more than 48% of the population. Of these, only 44.3% are literate. As per the Pakistan Council for Science & Technology, less than 10% of engineers and technologists are women.[vi] For other S.T.E.M. fields, women make up around 18% of the manpower. It’s unfortunate that exact data does not exist for this disparity, as many schools and S.T.E.M. institutes are hesitant to share the true figures. But rhetoric and facts alone can’t change the status quo. A lot more needs to be done to encourage more girls in science and math-relevant fields. This gap can needs to be seen as an opportunity and a focus area for the entire country to move forward. The time to act is now.
For your reference:
[iii] National Education Assessment Test Report 2016
[iv] Protection Against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act of 2010
The author is a Structural and Earthquake Engineer by day, PhD researcher for structural fire-hazard resilience, and is the Founder & CEO of Women Engineers Pakistan, where she works on equipping more women towards STEM fields.
Sadaf grew up in the small city of Sheikhupura. Earlier in her life, she was told to confine her education towards English Literature as a core subject (as this is considered as a predominantly feminine subject in the country), but her passion was always directed towards science and computers. She had to fight for her passion, and only after a struggle was she able to join computer science. Barriers for women in I.T. are very common. Pakistan has few universities that offer CS graduation. It's even more difficult for girls not coming from urban areas, as they were often not allowed to stay in hostels. But Sadaf kept raising herself and her family, and ultimately she achieved her dream of STEM education. Reminiscing about 1996, she says, "I don't know how, but computers always fascinate me. I bought my first computer from family friends and learned how to use a mouse from them. I explored every single thing in the computer myself." Now, Sadaf runs her own Robotics Club in Lahore, Pakistan.
Women Engineers Pakistan find Sadaf immensely inspiring. We feel that many young girls in Pakistan go through what Sadaf did, and her example of unrelenting passion sets her apart as a role model for many. So we sat down for an interview with her, and we're sure her answers will encourage many young girls towards tech fields.
Women Engineers Pakistan: What were your favorite subjects in school? Did these subjects help you do the job that you do today?
Sadaf Ahmed: In school days I had one favorite subject, and that was Math. Yes, mathematics helped me a lot in becoming what I am today. Math skills helped me in CS, Programming and Analysis. I consider myself as a "self-made learner". I learned Visual Basic programming by using tutorials. It helped me a lot in understanding logic behind every code.
WEP: What motivated you to choose the career that you have today? What were the biggest barriers?
SA: Motivation, hmm... "STEM" was a new word for me when I heard about it in 2012 during my visit to Sydney. There, I explored many institutes and learned how I can use my education and training and be helpful for next generation. Throughout my career, I have worked in different organizations, like Warid, Wateen and Shaukat Khanum, and I believe that STEM fields are magical. They provide deep-learning and hands-on training, and so I stuck with it. When I started my endeavor towards establishing "The Robotics Club Pakistan" in 2017, I faced many difficulties especially as a female entrepreneur. But I believe I am successful as I am able to show I CAN DO it! It's never easy, learning process stays in every step of one's life; so I am still a learner :)
WEP: Did you have any role models growing up? What was the one important character trait in them that inspired you?
SA: The genius, Arfa Kareem always inspired me. At such a young age she achieved so much! I think we need to build this capability in other children as well. I believe I can be part of this change, and teach as many children as possible the many ways how they can learn skills that suit the progressive nature of the 21st century. We need more people like Arfa, and I am sure it's possible to do so!
WEP: How do you handle barriers towards progress now that you are in the professional field? What would you like to see newcomer girls excel at?
SA: Well, some or the other barriers will always be there. Personally, I never thought it's impossible to achieve what I want. With enough struggle, I crossed all barriers in my field, and learnt to take the right steps by taking a few wrong ones. I stuck to my plans and made sincere efforts. With that, Allah always helped me! What I see in newcomer girls is they are moving more towards science and math. The conceptual segregation that "girls can't code" or "girls can't do engineering" is changing. But we have to boost this positivity much more. We need to bring more girls into science and math.
Few Words from the Nominator:
Miss Zainab Amin nominated Sadaf for WEP "Nominate a Pakistani Female Role Model in STEM" Program. She says, "Sadaf aims to be the flag bearer in making STEM education a part of regular education in Pakistan, and equipping the new generation with 21st century skills. For the accomplishment of her passion, she has started her own robotics club in which multiple courses are being offered from robotics and related fields. I see her as a role model for so many who want to come forward & put their contribution."
If you would like to hear more from your Role Model, let us know by nominating them here!
Iba Masood is the co-founder and CEO of TARA.ai, the Intelligent Product Builder. Iba is a YC Alum, and was part of YCombinator's Winter 2015 class. She was recently awarded Forbes 30 under 30, for the 2018 list, under the field of Enterprise Technology. In August 2017, Iba became a permanent resident of the United States, through the EB-1A award, which presents individuals of outstanding ability with the green card. She is also a past winner of the MIT Global Business Plan competition, and a recipient of the UN ITU Young Innovator's Award. Iba has been featured in TechCrunch, Wired and Huffington Post for her work in algorithmic pre-screening mechanisms for recruiting, and is passionate about machine learning in the world of work. She has spent the last seven years building mechanisms for pre-screening and project deployment in software, for hundreds of enterprise customers. Iba is the youngest winner of the Cartier Women's Initiative Award, and has an undergraduate degree in Finance from the American University of Sharjah, graduating magna cum laude at the age of 19. She has also previously worked at McKinsey & Co, and GE. Iba is originally from Karachi, Pakistan and was born in Sharjah, and brought up in the UAE.
Women Engineers Pakistan asked Iba some questions as we are sure her answers will make young Pakistani girls relate to her story better, and hopefully, attempt STEM education themselves.
Women Engineers Pakistan: What were your favorite subjects in school? Did these subjects help you do the job that you do today?
Iba Masood: Biology and Computer Science were one of my favorite subjects in school- however I think that learning is a continuous exercise. Several topics we learn in school become outdated fairly quickly (for example I learned a very early programming language in school- Visual Basic- which is irrelevant today) and it’s important that we continue to learn throughout our lives whether we are 12, 22 or 62 years old.
WEP: What motivated you to choose the career that you have today? What were the biggest barriers?
Iba: So, what motivated me to choose the career that I have today - (I mean) I would honestly say it started at the age of ten or eleven when I started coding at a very young age, when I was primarily was working with HTML and CSS, which were just pretty basic languages.
I think my biggest barriers were that growing up my family didn’t think I really should study computer science and computer engineering, because they imagined that I'm just going to be sitting in front of my computer during my entire career. Which is pretty funny considering the fact that most careers now involve sitting in front of a computer. I actually ended up studying finance, because they thought banking would be a very stable field which was funny, because I graduated right in the middle of the economic crisis in 2010.
The career that I chose, I think, was really out of the path of necessity. It was also something that I was obviously primarily interested in - specifically within computer science and computer engineering. Just by becoming someone essentially self-taught in coding; technically in my career; I didn’t pursue what I studied. But I don’t think that’s really relevant, I think a lot of people end up doing that. I think what is important is to continue to learn on an ongoing basis.
WEP: Did you have any role models growing up? What was the one important character trait in them that inspired you?
Iba: One of the things that I tended to gravitate towards was having a role model; just looking for role models within family. When I grew up, we were lower middle class in terms of income. What I found really inspiring was just seeing my mom - she was someone who actually studied Biology (Iba laughs) when she was younger and she got into the family business, and really tried to take reigns on the accounting and book-keeping fronts. I think that really inspired me; just seeing my mom, who didn’t have a career (or didn’t ever have a job in her entire life), just kind of take the reigns and try to grow the family business, I thought that was really inspiring for me!
Of course there have been business role models that I have had when I was growing up, but I think today the role models that I have are really different from whoever I would have had when I was younger. For example Therese Tucker. She's currently running a billion dollar company specifically within IT. It's kind of inspiring to see female founders that have public companies within the same field that I'm in. We're seeing more and more female founders move forward, which I think is really important. What I want the girls to understand that in the school is that sky is the limit, and you should keep pushing and moving forward. I think the most important character trait would be grit and resilience overall.
WEP: How do you handle barriers towards progress now that you are in the professional field? What would you like to see newcomer girls excel at?
Iba: Honestly I think, being who I am, and where I am from, obviously there are barriers I see on a day to day basis. But I think one of the biggest barriers for me was to actually get my career started in the (Silicon) valley. Now that I’ve been here for three years, I think in terms of however many barriers toward progress, you try to take it in stride. For every 10 "No's" you will receive one "Yes". That was what happened with me, and I just kept going. My family wasn’t (happy initially), but now my family is incredibly happy about me being in the US, they are coming as well! But early on when I packed my bag and just left for Boston on a tourist visa they weren’t very happy about that! So I just kind of one against the grain in that regard.
What I like to see girls excel at: I think one of the things that's really interesting is girls tend to be interested in math and science in young age, but they kind of get distanced over time, as they're told it's more of a masculine field. Which is completely ridiculous; because the earliest computer programmers were all women. So I think what I like to see girls excelling in is taking more interesting in math and science. At the end of the day, having a strong grasp of your numbers, and just being quantitative in general, is really important. Just having a strong grasp for math and science can set you up for any career!
If you would like to hear more from your Role Model, let us know by nominating them here!
Nominated by: Dr. Kendra Sharp (Oregon State University USA)
What makes her a trail-blazer?
Ms. Batool is currently a teaching fellow in the Department of Computer Science at the Information Technology University (ITU) and is also the Director of the Innovation for Poverty Alleviation Lab (IPAL) at ITU. She was a technical and research lead of a DFID funded project "Har Zindagi, Every Life Matters" that aims to improve kids' immunization coverage and retention across Punjab. Early results of the study demonstrate the value of incentives for and tracking of vaccinators; the results also demonstrate how ICT can be utilized to push positive social change. Ms. Batool also worked as an organizer for an International Development Design Summit in Lahore in 2016 where she served as a design mentor and community liaison. This summit brought together approximately 30 participants and 10 organizers from all over the world to apply the design process to co-create prototype ICT solutions for problems the "ahead" team (including Amna) identified with lady health workers, school teachers, artisans, and other community partners.
Few Words from the Nominator:
I have known Amna for several years and am seeing her mature into both a leader and a respected researcher/mentor in Information and Communication Technology for Development (ICTD).
While I am a professor in the U.S., I have been involved with several projects in Pakistan, including the Design Summit in Lahore. It was a joy to work with Amna and I am so pleased to hear of her growing professional success. She is an excellent role model for women in computer science in Pakistan!
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.
In this day and age of "alternative facts", here is a ground reality: Pakistani women are second to none. Then why is it that the ratio of women to men participation in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) is one of the lowest in the world? Women Engineers Pakistan has been actively trying to come up with solutions for this worrisome gender gap for the past three years or so. One of the common answers to this problem is the lack of opportunity, or the lack of fiscal ability. Today we present to you a comprehensive list of scholarships (both domestic and international) for pursuing the educational career of your dreams.
Scholarships within Pakistan
1. HEC Need-Based Scholarships
The Higher Education Commission of Pakistan has announced over 10,000 scholarships for students with financial constraints. This scholarship is available all over Pakistan, and can be applied for over 61 public sector universities. See more at: http://hec.gov.pk/english/scholarshipsgrants/NBS/Pages/default.aspx#sthash.0DLlQK9p.dpuf
2. Higher Education Opportunities for the students of Balochistan & FATA
In order to be eligible for this scholarship, the applicant must possess Local/Domicile Certificate from Balochistan Province/FATA. A minimum 12 years education with 60% marks in FA/F.Sc or equivalent is required. This scholarship program covers the average Tuition Fee and other charges up to Rs.60,000 per semester. It also provides a living allowance of Rs. 6,000/month with Rs. 500 annual increments. Book allowance and initial settlement allowance is also provided. See more at: http://hec.gov.pk/english/scholarshipsgrants/BAL-FATA/Pages/Eligibility-Criteria.aspx#sthash.RSFUj9eZ.dpuf
3. Prime Minister’s Fee Reimbursement Scheme for Less Developed Areas
Newly admitted student in Public Sector University in Spring/Fall Session are required to apply through the HEC online web portal system i.e. http://pmfrs.hec.gov.pk/ See more at: http://hec.gov.pk/english/scholarshipsgrants/tfp/Pages/How-To-Apply.aspx#sthash.krdOuFLr.dpuf
4. NUST Need-Based Scholarships
NUST provides need-based scholarships to selected Under Graduate and Post Graduate students. This is based strictly on the basis of their financial need. Only students securing admission on open merit are eligible for the award.
5. LUMS National Outreach Programme
Applicants are required to apply to the LUMS NOP during the first year of Intermediate or A-Levels. Application form can be downloaded from the following link: https://nop.lums.edu.pk/downloads-nop
6. Aga Khan Foundation Scholarship Program
As per their official website, "Scholarships are awarded on a 50% grant : 50% loan basis through a competitive application process once a year in June or July. The Foundation gives priority to requests for Master's level courses but is willing to consider applications for PhD programmes, only in the case of outstanding students who are highly recommended for doctoral studies by their professors and who need a PhD for the fulfilment of their career objectives (academic or research oriented)."
7. Habib Univeristy Scholarship Programs
Habib University offers a total of 8 scholarships, which are "awarded to the students who demonstrate good academic merit. These scholarships cover 35% to 50% of tuition and fee of the recipients."
1. Bestway Foundation Scholarships for Students from Pakistan
Applicable courses include Master's courses in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM fields). In order to be considered eligible, you must already meet the minimum English Language entry requirements. See more at: http://www.bradford.ac.uk/fees-and-financial-support/university-scholarships-and-support/
2. Chevening Scholarships
Chevening Scholarships are the UK government’s global scholarship program. This scholarship offers a building ground for the leaders of tomorrow who come from all over the world, developing them both, professionally and academically by helping them to network extensively, experience UK culture, and build lasting positive relationships with the UK.
3. Commonwealth Scholarships
Back in 2015, we published a procedure to apply for a Commonwealth scholarship to the UK. The deadline to submit the application is by end November/early December of the same year. One should understand that the screening process done by CSCUK on the basis of this online application is tough so one should properly research when writing the details. The results of the award are given out in April. The detailed procedure can be read here.
4. Fulbright Scholar Program
As per the United States Education Foundation in Pakistan, "The Fulbright Masters and PhD Program funds graduate study in the United States for a Master's or Ph.D. degree. Funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), these grants cover tuition, required textbooks, airfare, a living stipend, and health insurance. USEFP also assists with the visa process."
5. The American Association of University Women (AAUW) Scholarship
The AAUW's educational funding for women remains an important element to closing the funding gap for women in higher education. These scholarships are mostly aimed at education carried out within the United States.
6. OFID Scholarship
7. KAIST University Scholarships
8. Rhodes Scholarship
9. The Annemarie Schimmel Scholarship
10. And many others!
Our blogger, Sara Mashhadi compiled a list of scholarships some time ago. You can check this list out here.
Earthquake Engineering and Structural Dynamics Laboratory of EPFL
For a research project on the seismic response of stone masonry buildings, the Earthquake Engineering and Structural Dynamics Laboratory of EPFL ( http://eesd.epfl.ch/ ) invites applications for a PhD Position in Structural Engineering. For the seismic analysis of masonry buildings, accurate predictions of the in-plane displacement capacity of unreinforced masonry walls are required. The objective of the project is to develop mechanical models for the deformation capacity of stone masonry walls. The project will comprise large-scale experimental tests as well as the development of analytical models
*You have a Master's Degree in civil or structural engineering
*A strong background in mechanics is required
*Knowledge in earthquake engineering and structural masonry is of advantage but not mandatory
*You are proficient in spoken and written English
What they offer:
A challenging position at EPFL with outstanding infrastructure and an international working environment. The position is funded. For further information see phd.epfl.ch/edce .
If you are interested in this position, please send your motivation letter, CV and all university records as a single pdf-file to Katrin Beyer (email@example.com). Applicants should also apply in parallel to the doctoral program in Civil and Environmental Engineering ( http://phd.epfl.ch/edce ) or Mechanics (http://phd.epfl.ch/edme ).
The PhD Position in Structural Engineering is open until filled.
EPFL is Europe’s most cosmopolitan technical university with students, professors and staff from over 120 nations. A dynamic environment, open to Switzerland and the world, EPFL is centered on its three missions: teaching, research and technology transfer. EPFL works together with an extensive network of partners including other universities and institutes of technology, developing and emerging countries, secondary schools and colleges, industry and economy, political circles and the general public, to bring about real impact for society.
UNDP Pakistan is looking for eligible female candidates to fill one of it's roles for the UNDP FATA Recovery Project. See attached. Interested candidates, please send in your resumes to firstname.lastname@example.org
This work requires extensive experience of field monitoring of infrastructure schemes across KP and FATA which will involve working closely with Government counterparts, contractors and Pakistani security agencies.
Note from Recruiter:
UNDP Pakistan has received CVs of very good male candidates. However, in order to outreach further, we do need very good female candidates interested to work in KPK (Peshawar, Bannu and DI Khan).
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Current Situation:
According to the World Bank Gender Gap Report (2014), Pakistan stands at 141 out of 142 countries in terms of gender disparity in the areas of education attainment, economic participation, political empowerment and health and survival. Pakistan has generally been in the lower tier in terms of gender disparity throughout the years as a result of various social, cultural and legislative barriers. A closer look into the report also tells us that the percentage of female personnel dedicated to Research and Development in STEM is 11 percent as compared to 89 percent men. Not only this, but the female-to-male ratio in professional and technical workforce is barely 0.28. Women in Science in Pakistan face a huge gap!
What is the Government doing for Women in Science in Pakistan?
The government has taken a number of initiatives, such as the abolition of the quota system in medical colleges, fixing quota for women in government boards and positions of authority, laws for protecting women at the workplace, etc. which have improved female participation in the economy. However the implementation of these laws, along with the introduction of new ones in specific sectors of the economy which are women-centered, must be carried out for better results.
The Gems of Pakistan: Women in Science & Tech
Pakistani women have an immense potential to excel and create an impact in whatever sectors of economy they participate in. Starting from STEM, and all the way to the informal sector, Pakistani women are putting in an effort which is impressive enough; however, if their capabilities are utilized to their fullest, the differences in the economic indicators will be magnificent. Women currently make 18.4 percent of the workforce in different fields of Sciences and Technology, according to the survey conducted by Pakistan Council for Science and Technology, as compared to 81.6 percent men. This figure gives us an insight into the amount of potential which has not yet been unleashed.
There are leading Pakistani women scientists and engineers whose contributions show us that we need to look beyond gender differences and instead converge our attention to the significant additions they’ve made in their domain. Dr Nergis Mavalvala, Engr. Nida Farid, Dr. Sania Nishtar, Dr.Humaera Noor Minhas are a few renowned scientists, but there is an ever-growing number of Pakistani women who are involved in various research endeavors in specific fields of Science and Technology. Public- private partnerships have enabled many women to take up collaborative research programmes in foreign universities. Dr. Farzana Shaheen, Uzma Mehmood are recognized for their efforts and there are numerous others who are involved in such programmes and are a valuable addition to the country’s resources.
Universities today have an ever-growing number of female engineers, not unlike medical colleges, which also have an increased enrollment rate for women. These indicators give an optimistic glimpse into the future of this country. However, a lacking point for Pakistan is the integration of this emerging talent into the workforce. The statistics mentioned in the beginning of this post are not too satisfactory either. Therefore, it becomes imperative to break the social and cultural barriers which hinder women in science and technology, and instead encourage initiatives which allow them to participate in the efforts towards the country’s progress, without seizing to abate legislative measures which impose a binding on women to contribute towards the uplifting of Pakistan’s economy.
Be the change you want to see.