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.