Guest post by Saima Shabbir and Zainab Saleem, 2017 fellows of Pakistan
Editor’s note: The 2017 fellows of Pakistan were one of five country cohorts to receive a $3,000 seed grant to support the implementation of their action plan that was developed during the 2017 TechWomen program. In addition to mentorship and cultural activities, TechWomen participants collaboratively work to develop an action plan to address a socioeconomic issue in their community alongside Impact Coaches
Vision and Mission
In Pakistan, women’s representation in science and technology careers and leadership roles is almost nonexistent. This underrepresentation stems mainly from the lack of awareness, exposure and quality education in science and technology at the primary, middle and high school levels. She for Tech is an impact and outreach initiative that aims to inspire the next generation of women to shatter the glass ceiling in science, technology and innovation in our country. The initiative will mentor girls in public schools in order to bridge the gender gap in these fields, thereby paving way for more female representation. Women in technology fields, across a spectrum of disciplines and specialties, will be engaged to act as coaches, mentors and role models. The initiative is one of the three sub-chapters of the STEM for Change impact project originally awarded a TechWomen seed grant.
She for Tech adopts a multipronged approach:
- Involve young girls in science, technology and innovation through three Cs: career counseling, camps and competitions
- Motivate girls to pursue science and technology careers through a mentorship platform
- Sustain women’s leadership in science and technology through our support network
Team She for Tech began by exploring the unique societal dynamics at work in Pakistan, realizing that a lack of awareness and support for women in science and technology is a primary impediment to their success. Therefore, our first step focused on bringing together female role models, mentors and mentees through an easily accessible, custom-designed web portal in addition to various social media platforms. We also found that there is a misconception that these career tracks are not proﬁtable or reliable for women. Hence, through our website and social media venues, we will attempt to eradicate stereotypes by recognizing and publishing profiles of Pakistani female achievers in science and technology. Our website will allow sign-up for target schools, mentors, mentees, volunteers and collaborating organizations along with the information on upcoming events, workshops, curriculum resources and feedback forms. All collaborations, discussions and networking will take place on our moderated online portal. This electronic setting will be a valuable investment that will serve as a long-term digital hub for scaling and sustaining our initiative.
Recently, She for Tech held a one-day career counseling session at Islamabad College for Girls, a public school in Islamabad. With a panel of mentors in the engineering, medical and natural sciences fields, the day was divided in two separate sessions for middle and high school girls, educating them about the unlimited possibilities in STEM fields. Mentors were available for Q&A and one-on-one sessions.
Soon we will have a set of free online science and technology ideation challenges with two themes: green solutions to Pakistan’s clean water crisis and using robotics and aerospace to solve real-world problems. Our virtual setting will provide a project resource pack required to carry out the core project, its related experiments and cross-curricular activities. An instruction manual will be posted that will include introduction on the project topic with a booklet containing guidelines for project execution. The objective is to inspire and engage young girls to think and develop scientific and technological solutions. In this process, girls will be motivated to pursue science and technology careers through learning about critical thinking, problem solving and communication skills as well as science and technology comprehension.
She for Tech believes that through our concerted efforts, women will lead the future of science and technology in Pakistan.
She for Tech Founding Members are 2017 fellows Zainab Saleem and Saima Shabbir.