By Mohammad Hasan Ayaz
What’s the first name that comes to your mind when you think about the world of tech on a global level? From Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg to Satya Nadella, most of the names that instantly strike a chord are of men. There are hardly any women leaders in the tech sector that have become a household name.
This indicates the clear divide that not just lies on a national level but in the global space as well. Women are underrepresented in the field of technology, and the gender disparity is stifling, to say the least. Those who are able to make a mark & rise to a prominent level, have their own story to tell about the challenging journey as well.
As we celebrate International Women in ICT Day, it’s important not only to reflect on the progress we’ve made towards gender equality in the tech industry, but also acknowledge how much work still needs to be done. In Pakistan, women remain severely underrepresented in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector, with only 23% of the workforce being female.
Only 16 percent of female computer science graduates are working versus 83 percent men. This is a problem that needs its due attention, not just for the sake of fairness, but also for the economic and social benefits that diversity brings.
One sector that can play a pivotal role in bridging this gender gap is Financial Technology (fintech). In Pakistan, fintech has been growing rapidly. In recent years with innovations such as mobile wallets, digital payment platforms, peer-to-peer transfers & consumer lending have proven to be revolutionary as they provide masses with access to financial services, the biggest benefactor being women.
By leveraging technology and reducing barriers to financial inclusion, fintech can empower women to participate more fully in the economy and contribute to Pakistan’s overall development. Not only that, but it also presents an opportunity for women to participate in the tech industry & make a huge difference.
However, women in Pakistan still face many challenges when it comes to pursuing careers in fintech. These challenges include cultural barriers that discourage women from pursuing careers in STEM fields, as well as systemic biases in hiring and career progression that hamper access to equal opportunities. Moreover, women face additional challenges due to the intersection of their gender with other social identities, such as ethnicity, class, and other factors.
According to the Global Gender Gap Index Report, Pakistan ranks 135 out of 156 countries for educational attainment. Moreover, women in Pakistan face gender-specific barriers such as limited mobility, restrictions on interacting with male colleagues, and societal pressure to prioritize marriage and motherhood over careers.
These challenges make it difficult for women to pursue careers in fintech and other STEM fields.
To truly harness the potential of fintech for women’s empowerment, we need to address the underlying issues that have prevented women from entering the tech industry in the first place. This includes creating an inclusive ecosystem that addresses the specific needs and challenges faced by women in fintech and the wider ICT sector.
At easypaisa, the commitment towards gender diversity and overall inclusivity is not only apparent but deeply ingrained in our core values. We take immense pride in providing women with ample opportunities to showcase their skills and flourish in the ICT field.
We have developed several programs and initiatives that specifically cater to women, such as the Future Innovators Program and the Women Management Trainee Program. Additionally, there are several talented women working as software developers, site reliability engineers, and product & delivery managers who are a testimony of what positive impact women in tech can play for meaningful impact on organizational success, most importantly the society, and economy.
They do so by catching up to the learning curve quickly & hard work thus propagating them towards technical leadership roles as well.
easypaisa is also proud to have women leaders leading key divisions and verticals such as treasury, legal, and product management. These women have not only broken the glass ceiling but have also inspired and paved the way for countless others to follow in their footsteps.
To conclude, women in the technology sector have just shown a glimpse of what they can achieve if provided with the right exposure & opportunity. It is the responsibility of all organizations & policymakers to work together, provide mentorship, and break the stereotypes to ensure a safe and inclusive culture allowing women to work their way toward decision-making roles more within the tech space.
Mohammad Hasan Ayaz is the Acting Chief Technology Officer of Easypaisa/ Telenor Microfinance Bank.