Integrating women into the workplace is a challenge in a country like Pakistan. Recent numbers are encouraging but 60% of women never return to the workforce after having kids. Due to concerns about safety, daily care and nourishment, mothers are forced to stay home even if they want to return to work.
This is where Rise Mom comes in.
Part of Founder Institute’s first batch of startups, Rise Mom focuses on enabling professional women. It provides a network of daycare centers equipped with trained care givers. A smartphone app gives you access to a live video of your kid, a roster of care givers and feeding schedules. Furthermore, women can share experiences and tips on a dedicated forum.
ProPakistani got a chance to sit down with Sihah Waris, the CEO of Rise Mom, and we had a conversation about her startup and what it means to be a women entrepreneur in Pakistan.
Speaking about the inspiration behind the venture, she said:
A few months back a friend of mine took maternity leave from her job, but after she had her baby, when her company called her, she declined to join back. Her company even offered her double the salary she was previously receiving, but she still refused.
I asked her why she was refusing such a good offer, she said that she’d heard such horrifying stories about day care centers that she couldn’t trust anyone with her child. She missed her job a lot, but she didn’t feel that anyone could take care of her kid the way she wanted.
That got me thinking. Surely she wasn’t the first one to face this issue. There is a huge number of working women who’re facing exactly the same issue right now.
So I decided to step in and solve this problem for working mothers, to provide them with peace of mind and make sure no other woman has to leave her job for this reason.
Right now, Rise Mom is operating two day care centers in Islamabad. Plans are already underway for 18 more in partnership with employers that have a large female workforce like Telenor, HEC, Shifa International and others.
Here are a few tidbits from our Q&A session with Sihah.
What are your thoughts about gender diversity, especially among entrepreneurial circles in Pakistan?
Establishing a business isn’t easy, it is challenging for both men and women. However it’s a bit more challenging for women because of the cultural barriers in Pakistan. They are supposed to get married, take care of kids at home and leave their career.
Given these issues, we see major cities (e.g. Lahore, Karachi & Islamabad) going all out to promote entrepreneurship, and in providing opportunities to young entrepreneurs. Families in these cities are comparatively supportive than other cities like Sargodha, Faisalabad, Sialkot etc.
It is important that Pakistani society facilitates and works on improving the situation for women entrepreneurs. Many areas where women really need support, and where families need to be educated about how women can play their role in the economy of Pakistan, these should become focus areas that need public and private support.
Any advice for women who’re looking to start their own business?
Although the culture in Pakistan is slowly changing, women are entering into sectors previously reserved exclusively for men. However, there is still a big gap between ratio of women and men in entrepreneurship.
Since Pakistan was established, we have had multiple women who have made lasting impressions with their distinct achievements, even given the cultural constraints at the time. This shows that women in Pakistan can achieve more if they put their mind to it.
Up until even a few years back, women entrepreneurship in Pakistan was a subject of great neglect, however it is rapidly changing and there are many opportunities available for entrepreneurial women. All they need to do is leave their comfort zone, step in, and do their part to make Pakistan a strong & successful nation. I strongly believe they can do it.
As a fellow women entrepreneur at Rise Mom, I urge the womenfolk to reach out. I’ll be more than happy to guide them as achieve their entrepreneurial dreams.
Given how many working women have had to sacrifice a rewarding and lucrative career when motherhood beckons, a startup like Rise Mom can help women make the most of their life choices. Its not just geared towards high-powered women executives, but anyone who wants to balance their professional and personal lives.
In Pakistan’s context a startup like Rise Mom makes sense as more and more women are realizing the value of financial independence and the choices it offers in uplifting communities be they situated in rural or urban areas. Expect to hear a lot more from this impressive venture in the months to come.