Women in Limelight

Women in technology: How Pakistan fares

Like the rest of the world, there is a growing realization in Pakistan as well about the huge positive impact women can have in the technology space. With each passing year, the number of women working for the technology sector is going up. Despite this emerging awareness of the significance of having more gender-diverse workspaces, there is still a long way to go before the country’s technology sector can be considered completely women-friendly.

Techjuice.pk reported last year that among South Asian countries i.e., Bhutan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka, Pakistan has the lowest number of women participating in the workforce. In addition, a South Asia Research Program report on women employment in the country found that the proportion of women in white-collar jobs remains significantly low. Furthermore, a 2012 P@SHA study revealed that women make up only 14% of the workforce in the technology sector.

There are a variety of reasons contributing to this huge gender disparity in the Pakistani tech space. Stratified gender roles, where women are expected to take on the responsibilities on the home front, too often make it difficult for them to build careers, which is a major reason for gender inequality at the workplace.

This is compounded by the fact that with some notable exceptions, not too many companies offer women the supportive environment needed to build and advance their careers. Benefits like maternity leaves, daycare centers and flexible working arrangements can go a long way in ensuring that women choose to stay on in their jobs and contribute to important decision-making in their offices in a positive state of mind.

The country’s technology sector needs to come up with regular initiatives to inspire women to pursue careers in the tech space. In this regard, 10Pearls has played a pioneering role and will continue this tradition with its annual Women Tech Quest 2018, a Hackathon and Testathon competition being held exclusively for women on April 7. The event aims to bring talented and skilled female professionals to the forefront and strengthen their role in the tech industry. The Women Tech Quest was first held last year, and garnered a phenomenal response from the country’s female developers and testers.

In a recent interview 10Pearls’ Managing Director Imran Aftab explained the philosophy behind the Women Tech Quest: “We wanted to have women from the industry and various companies be focused on creating applications that would help solve problems. It was a way for them to get together, bond, demonstrate their expertise, and be recognized for that. They don’t always get to express their creativity in this way.”

One hopes that the Women Tech Quest 2018 paves the way for talented young women to leave their mark in the tech space and follow in the footsteps of prominent female Pakistanis who have already made their presence felt in this area. From Kalsoom Lakhani, the founder and CEO of Invest2Innovate – a social venture that provides support to seed-stage social enterprises ­– to Sheba Najmi, a user experience designer and product strategist, who founded Code for Pakistan, a technology focused, non-profit civic organization that aims to improve quality of life across the country, we have many examples of Pakistani women in the technology space making a success of their efforts. Besides these two trailblazers we also have Maria Umer, founder of Women’s Digital League, Madiha Nasrullah, CEO of nazdeeq.com and Sadia Bashir, the co-founder of Pixel Art Games Academy, a video game production company and a recent entrant to the prestigious Forbes Asia 30 Under 30 list, who have also set benchmarks in the Pakistani technology sector in their own unique way and hopefully will inspire women in the tech space to continue to pursue their dreams.