Lack of inclusion and diversity has become a sore spot for tech industry worldwide and Pakistan is no different. Every year, we see plenty of women graduating with engineering and technology degrees but only a small number of them decide to join the workforce and even a smaller number reaches for middle and senior level positions. This creates an imbalance in the workforce and a negative impact on the economy. The research points to the actual issues that force women to leave the workforce, be it lack of family support or workplace sexism and harassment, women don’t find enough allies on either side and tend to leave their careers.
Our community #WomenInTechPK does frequent meetups to understand the causes and issues local women face when it comes to education and career opportunities and starts a conversation which encourages women to come out of their shell and talk about issues that hurt and haunt them. Since its inception, the community has been a place of meaningful discourse and we have seen its impact in terms of women getting access to opportunities, finding other like-minded women, real-time advice and the freedom to talk about things that are usually swept under the rug.
We love to host guests from all over world and invite them to come and meet our members and talk about their work and share their experiences. Last week, we got an opportunity to invite Iffat Rose Gill from Code To Change (Amsterdam) to talk about her initiative and her upcoming projects. The meetup was hosted by Shamim Rajani (COO – Genetech Solutions) at her office and it was planned to last an hour and a half but went on for more than two hours.
Following are the pointers from our discussion with Iffat.
- Iffat spoke about her community building experience and the issues women face in the western world, we found a lot of similarities, for example, gender discrimination and lack of support.
- Shamim Rajani and Sukaina Abbas spoke about their experiences as entrepreneurs and employers. They also shared their back stories and how they have been navigating throughout the years.
- Women not showing up to events, conference and meetups is a real issue. We talked about the possible reasons and ways in which organizers can facilities women so that we see more representation (sadly, 24 women registered for this meetup, only 8 were there).
- We spoke about permission issues for women who want to join the workforce and if HR Managers/Senior Managers can help in terms of changing the image and environment of their workplace.
- Shamim and Iffat stressed that professional etiquettes and ethics sessions should be conducted in the group which can help in creating a better workforce. Also, starting a dialogue with employers about the virtues of remote working, which can help them in cutting costs and will give them access to a larger resource pool.
- We decided on creating a toolkit for women who are either entering or reentering the workforce.
- There is a growing need to conduct a full research on skill gap so that future course of action can be decided.
- We discussed the lack of inclusion when it comes to conferences and the ways in which local communities can help raise this issue and extend support in resolving it. We decided to keep calling out conference organizers for having manels and not giving opportunities to women. I also proposed some ideas that can help us in creating a framework for conference organizers to ensure an inclusive speaker lineup.
- Workplace harassment and safety were also discussed and we talked about the lack of harassment policies in the tech industry.
The meetup concluded with some snacks and coffee and we decided to check up on the progress to ensure that our words turn into actions.
Are you a Women in Technology and want to be part of our community? Tweet at @WomenInTechPK and we will send you an invite!