Two Dozen Men and I talk

Having worked in software houses in Pakistan, and now in Sydney too, I know it isn’t a myth that women are a rare entity in STEM jobs (Science Technology Engineering and Maths). It was an eye opener for me when I attended a conference in Melbourne and I saw a vast ocean of women from India who seemed to be flourishing and supporting each other in technological jobs.

Sadly, I was the only Pakistani woman at the event.

Back in the early 1990s my parents had a vision. They surprisingly knew that the future of jobs was technology, and pushed me to take up this direction in life.

“Just grab your laptop and work from anywhere!” is what Dad always said. My parents always wanted to help me pursue a good career while nurturing a family, as per the expectations in our part of the world.

20 years later, this has become a reality.

Next month, marking the end of a year in Sydney and working as a Quality Analyst in a sports analytics company, this is a glimpse of what my day might look like:

Attend a meeting from home at 6 am with US office.

Get a task done till 9 am

Head down to daughter’s school for her holiday care responsibilities of the vegetable garden.

School duty taking more time than anticipated? Attend the meeting at 10:30 am under the sky on nature’s most perfect shade of green.

Drop the kids at Vacation Care for 3 hours.

Work on the bus to the office…

Head back home while again, working on the bus.

Dose off for 15 mins to get a breather for the rest of the day.

Pick up the kids for their playdate.

Work at the park surrounded by cockatoos and bushes.

Besides being the woman who carries the HP Laptop Bag, rather than a Louis Vuitton, I am often the only woman in a meeting room with 2 dozen men. An experience that is uplifting, as well as lonely in the beginning.

Currently I am 100% of the female workforce at my workplace.

Who knows what the world could look like if we women were more involved? Many nations around the world are seeking to formulate policies and incentives to get girls involved from an early age to see the power of technology is synonymous with possibility. Mostly this work is still in development phases across many nations which makes it safe to state that not all hope is lost for Pakistan to make amends.

Where can we begin on a personal level?

Here are a few things that may help in directing them towards reason and logical thinking: –

Let them break things and fix them.

If you have an old DVD player in the house that won’t resell for more than Rs. 500, open it up and see what’s inside. If only we had saved the old VCR technology for this day.

Get them started on coding.

Developing technology toys and platforms for young minds is one of the greatest revenue generating industries in the current world. There is a lot of work being done on this front. Get them signed up for free to programming platforms. Many platforms like Scratch and Tynker helps them see their whole world as a working machine of smaller programs. Extensive tutorials throw the excuse of parents being less tech savvy out the window.

Take up a holiday project of making a website.

Similarly there exist dozens of online platforms that teach you to make websites with limited tech skills like Wix and Weebly.

No knowledge acquired in a lifetime goes to waste. Every drop matters. There is no greater joy than creating. STEM is nothing but creating. Empower them to create.

This story is narrated by Asma Sikandar

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