At 14%, female participation in Pakistan’s tech sector is the same as women’s overall representation in the country’s total workforce. If you think that the statistic is too low, which it in fact is, be informed that gender gap is almost as much on the developed side of the world too; in the US, 20% of tech jobs are held by women.
Today’s Pakistani IT woman has a healthy career outlook. She possesses a relevant bachelor’s or a master’s degree, has 1-7 years of experience, and is working in software, analytics, business development, network planning and rollout among other domains. She’s contributing towards the organization and the country’s socio-economic development and is expecting what she deserves – competitive salary, paid maternity, flexi hours, coaching & mentoring, and above all, a safe and enabling working environment.
Few companies in Pakistan are offering her that. And those which do, have more women in management and are financially outperforming the ones that don’t. There are several factors that prevent women from pursuing a tech career including a lack of female mentors, male-dominated workplaces, and above all, gender bias. The last is the most prominent one in the worldwide tech industry as tech companies lack an enabling work environment for women.
“The kind of gender bias I faced in my previous jobs was not inconspicuous and problems were abound for female workers in a male-dominated workplace,” shares Amena Shakil, Senior Expert on Digital Telco Solutions at Telenor Pakistan who is one of the leads for the company’s modernization initiatives including the recent Voice over LTE (VoLTE) technology. “Things were poles apart here at Telenor and the kind of support and encouragement I received from my colleagues is what made VoLTE a reality,” she adds. You can never expect to excel and contribute in a restricting environment, Amena says.
Gender diversity and inclusion are at the heart of Telenor Pakistan’s workplace culture. With a firm belief that diversity drives innovation, Telenor fosters a workplace environment that enables women to perform to their full potential. Amena was given the right coaching and mentoring throughout her career at Telenor Pakistan, besides benefiting from an unmatched work atmosphere. “Organizations need to understand that the way men work women don’t. Most of us are introverts needing our privacy, space, and respect. Telenor provides all this through policy and infrastructure. There are silent zones for contemplation and then there are social zones for discussions, that is in addition to a healthy office space,” Amena says.
Amena informs she was always passionate about developing new things and taking initiatives, as are many other females at Telenor Pakistan and around the country. It is the curious techie in her that helps realize technological solutions through encouragement and support of her team.
Technology is increasingly becoming the field of choice for the Pakistani girls of today’s digital age. Thanks to better integration of science, technology, engineering & mathematics (S.T.E.M.) in education, more Pakistani women are getting prepared for the tech jobs of today and tomorrow. As encouragement of women’s participation in tech continues, time is not far when the sector would finally lose its longstanding perception of being a boys-only club.