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.