Pakistan's younger women riding a digital wave in drive for better jobsArchive
When Kainat Naz joined a women-friendly technology boot camp a year ago, she had no idea it would completely change her life and her views on how women can work in conservative Pakistan.
Naz, 22, had never ventured far from her home in Orangi Town in Karachi, one of the five largest slums of the world, but was feeling dissatisfied with her current teaching job.
So she signed up for a tech programme called TechKaro, an initiative by Circle — a social enterprise that aims to improve women’s economic rights in Pakistan — and is now working full-time for a software company.
Naz said the course was challenging in many ways but she soon found that the women on the training were just as good as the men at tech skills like coding, web development and digital marketing, and also at presenting themselves at interviews.
“From developing our CVs, to giving us tips on dressing for work, to conducting ourselves during an interview and how to battle some sticky questions. We were groomed for everything,” said Naz.
Women make up about 25 per cent of Pakistan’s labour force, one of the lowest in the region, according to the World Bank.
It has set a target to increase this to 45pc, calling for more childcare and a crackdown on sexual harassment to encourage more women out to work and boost economic growth.
In Pakistan, women represent only 14pc of the IT workforce, according to a 2012 study by [email protected], the Pakistan Software Houses Association for IT and IT-enabled services (ITeS).
Sadaffe Abid, chief executive of Circle, set up TechKaro with the help of a few private foundations in 2018 seeing this gender gap, and took on 50 trainees in the first year, of which 62pc were women and 75 in 2019, including 66pc women.
Abid, who previously worked for a micro-finance institution, said she was delighted that women like Naz were proving that women could succeed in the tech world.
“I am a firm believer that one of the most powerful uses of technology is to bring it to young women, especially from under-served communities, to unlock their talents, resourcefulness and creativity,” said Abid.
“People told me I won’t find women, or women will drop out in high numbers, or after completing the course, women won’t find employment as the industry will not be open to hiring this unique diverse group with no degree in computer science.
But I would say 50pc of the graduates, a majority of whom are women, have found work in software companies,” said Abid, who also brought She Loves Tech to Pakistan, one of the world’s largest women and startup competitions globally.
TechKaro is one of the latest programmes in the country aimed at helping women crack the traditionally male domain.