- What is the participation ratio or percentage of Pakistani women in STEM fields?
As per the Pakistan Council for Science & Technology, there are roughly 18 percent women in the science and technology fields in comparison with men, whereas a little over 10 percent women are into engineering.
- If there is, in fact, a low percentage of women in STEM fields in Pakistan, what needs to be done to change this scenario?
We at the WEP believe that education plays a vital role. The present curriculum needs to be remolded to make math and physics more interactive and less formidable for every student, be it male or female. There is worldwide bias towards the male gender for mathematical education, which sometimes leads to discouragement for girls. Presently, the Women Engineers Pakistan is working on various outreach projects, where we go to high schools for girls and familiarize them with the vast field of engineering, shedding light on all the relatable role models. This often serves as an inspiration, a little push for the already very talented girls of Pakistan.
- Do you think STEM education and careers can empower Pakistani women? How?
Yes, STEM education is crucial to empowerment. And personally, I think it works both ways. Not only does the inclusion of women in STEM fields enable them to grow and progress while keeping pace with the world, but the ingredient of added diversity works wonders for the growth of STEM fields too! Fresh minds and new ideas are imperative. As far as Pakistani women are concerned, the prevalent gender gap calls for immediate action. Technically capable women can voice their ideas and opinions in sync with the constantly changing world. They can address their issues in a more impactful manner. They can take up high-paying careers to work for the progress of the country while keeping pace with their peers from the other gender.
- What is the scope of STEM education for women in Pakistan?
Women in Pakistan make up around half of the population. With STEM education, they can become a major force in propelling the country forward. They can take up jobs that are more respectable, more socially acceptable, more flexible and gives them the power to decide. They can get into research and discover vaccines, they can device computer programs that can help eradicate corruption, they can engineer social entrepreneurship to a whole new level, as they are half the amount of stakeholders. Statistically speaking, the scope is high and so are the returns.
- What role is your organization playing in encouraging women participation in STEM fields?
The Women Engineers Pakistan (WEP) is a non-profit organization working to promote science and technology, along with its many applications within the female population of the country. We have Campus Ambassadors in major engineering universities of the country, who facilitate our interaction with currently enrolled engineering students through conferences and seminars, where we hold talks about the practical world and prepare our girls to counter issues such as the glass-roof or workplace harassment. We also screen CVs. Through social media, we post various opportunities for jobs and scholarships. In the coming week, we shall be holding a webinar for guidance on study-abroad applications and scholarships.
As a form of outreach, our Campus Ambassadors go to many schools and talk to girls about dismissing their fear of math and physics at secondary school level. We also provide career counseling for high school students. Apart from this, we recently launched our STEM Mentoring Program whereby mentors from North America and Pakistan help to steer our students towards the STEM fields. This program is currently undergoing strategic structuring and modulation, which will be followed by our very first “trial-run” in the coming month. Details can be found here.
- Is there anything you wish to add?
With the humungous amount of talent that I have personally witnessed, I am highly optimistic that the future of Pakistani women is bright. All they need right now is a little guidance, and that is what we are trying to provide through WEP.