By Madiha Javed Qureshi
Here is a quick pop quiz for you!
What comes to your mind when I take the following names: Hypatia of Alexanderia, Marie Curie, Rosalin Franklin, Nergis Mavalvala, Jennifer Doudna, Maryam MirzaKhani and Ozlem Turci.
If you haven’t guessed the answer, even after looking at the header, let’s say goodbye to darkness and get to know more about the above mentioned and many more women who are contributing to the field of science.
United Nations International Day for Women and Girls in Science comes almost a month before it’s Women’s Day, putting enough emphasis on the agenda of promoting women and girls in the field of science and technology to have a greater impact on the society at large.
One such example from our own country is Nergis Mavalvala who was part of the team experimenting with gravitational waves, interviewed on February 11 by Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy said “being able to go to her school’s chemistry lab and be given the freedom to experiment by her teacher was a pivotal moment to feeding her curiosity.”
Just like like many academics, science and technology is one curriculum that is still perceived to be gender-specific, especially in a country like Pakistan, where “computer is a nerdy stuff that guys do” said Hannia, a software engineer at a recent panel “Opening Doors & Breaking Ceilings: Women in Tech” hosted by Jehan Ara from Nest I/O’s platform in collaboration with Careem.
The 21st-century lives by the preamble of “Careers have no Genders” as quoted by United Nations, which pledges to do its part to eliminate the stereotypes, gender bias, and discrimination that holds back women and girls from careers in Science, Tech, Engineering and Math.
We can all do our part to eliminate the stereotypes, gender bias & discrimination that hold women and girls back from careers in Science, Tech, Engineering and Math.
— United Nations (@UN) February 11, 2021
1. An Early Start
“Girls at a young age must be nurtured with a science-mindset”, said Wajeeha Akram, Senior Software Engineer at Careem during her panel talk. Charity begins at home, don’t leave science as a subject for school lessons. Evidence-based research shows that kids as young as 3 can be taught to observe and experiment.
2. Be curious and ask questions
Nergis Mavalvala during her interview on #WomenInScience Day says “have you ever met a baby that is not curious…, it’s all about taking young kids with innate curiosity and feeding it by giving them opportunity”.
Next time she asks too many questions, don’t say “Buhut Bolti Ho…”
3. Go beyond classrooms
Other than taking her with you for your salon appointments, give a chance to go to bookstores, zoo, turtle beach, and planetarium. Field visits are not just for schools to take care of, charity begins at home.
4. Teach them how to code
Kids can learn how to code as young as 6 years of age. There are many online courses such as Code Monkey which can teach programming at a very early age. This will improve their problem-solving skills and who knows, their names may be discussed in articles such as these….
5. Have pets, plants, and video games… Yes, Video Games!
Research shows, kids having pets and nurturing plants has a huge impact on their personality as grown-ups. Invest in getting pets, plants and get them involved in playing with it. Video games are not just for boys. All video games are not bad, some such as Minecraft or world of warcraft might actually help her win science fairs in school.
That’s because this wildly popular game has helped spark grade-schoolers’ interest in the science of coding.
6. Careers have no genders
Evaluate your personal biases such as only boys can code or are good at computers and engineering. You know what they say, there’s only one way to find out… by actually doing it.
7. Promote women scientists and their work
Just how kids grow up with having role models in different fields such as humanitarians, sportspeople, actors, engineers, entrepreneurs, they can even have role models in science and tech. Therefore, it is essential to talk more about women scientists and technologists at home and educate them on what can be achieved via technology.
After all, if there is one thing no one can deny, it is that the future is tech-oriented.
Madiha is the Director of Communications at Careem. She is a creative and editorial professional with extensive experience as a journalist, writer, editor, trainer, and public affairs and media relations. Madiha is a proud mother, a passionate feminist, and an advocate for gender equality and freedom of speech.