Pakistani Women in Science and Technology

With the technological world advancing by leaps and bounds with every passing second, Pakistan’s entrance into this highly competitive area has become more than a necessity. Rather it has become a matter of survival. With an estimated population of around 193 million people, of which, MORE than 50% are female, it has become imperative for Pakistan to utilize this vast trove of talent if it is to compete with the rest of the world. Featured below are just a few examples of the talented, highly accomplished females that have and continue to better Pakistan’s impact in the world.

We start off with one of Pakistan’s most respected child prodigy Arfa Abdul Karim. The title of the world’s youngest Microsoft certified professional from 2004-2008 was acquired by Arfa Karim at the age of just nine. She was personally invited by Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, to meet him. She also represented Pakistan at many technology and computer conferences. However, her story had a tragic end as she died of cardiac arrest when she was 16 years old.

Focusing on the IT world, let’s bring your attention to JEHAN ARA, the mastermind behind PASHA (Pakistan Software Houses Associations). The company’s major objective is the development and protection of software industry in Pakistan. It also collaborates with companies beyond the borders to provide its clients with the best software products and services. Jehan Ara has not only been active as President of PASHA but also worked for nearly 3 decades in marketing, communications and media in Pakistan, UAE, Hong Kong and the Far East. She is an entrepreneur, speaker, motivator and writer for various Industrial publications. She is working on her project “Women’s Virtual Network” that would help educated women deal with employers and other professional workers, giving them a chance to explore themselves in the world, with rapid IT growth.

Moving on to Namira Saleem, a Pakistani National who has lived most of her life in the United Arab Emirates and Monaco, is the only Pakistani to have been chosen to be a member of the world’s first commercial space liner, Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic. This has given her the distinction of soon- to-become the first Pakistani to travel to space and also Pakistan’s first Astronaut. Namira was among the 100 space tourists that were shortlisted from 44 thousand applicants in 2005.To be a part of this historic journey with Virgin Galactic, Namira has trained and has also qualified for the suborbital spaceflight. The training was conducted under Virgin Galactic’s supervision at the NASTAR Center in the United States. Namira is also an artist and has conducted several exhibitions under the Patronage of Royalty from the UAE. As a result of her artistic and polar exploits Namira Salim also promotes peace and goodwill for which she has been honored.

Then we have Nergis Mavalvala, who is a Pakistani  American astrophysicist known for her role in the first observation of gravitational waves.  She is the Curtis and Kathleen Marble Professor of Astrophysics at MIT where she is also the Associate Head of the Department of Physics. She was awarded a MacArthur fellowship in 2010. Mavalvala is best-known for her work on the detection of gravitational waves in the LIGO project, but she has also obtained prominent results on other physics problems that evolved out of LIGO: for example, she has performed pioneering experiments on laser cooling of macroscopic objects and in the generation of squeezed quantum states of light.

Next we have Nida Farid who is a graduate in Aerospace Engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Master in Mechanical Engineering from ETH, Zurich, Switzerland. She is proficient in aircraft manufacturing, wind energy, power segments and energy conservation. She decided on her dream early and has not looked back ever since. She believes this is one profession where inspiration hits you in your childhood. As her mother’s side of the family was from India, she travelled very frequently when she was young and always found planes magical. This ultimately became her inspiration.

Next we have multi-talented Stanford grad, Sheba Najmi – once a Pakistani television news anchor, now an extremely versatile user experience designer and product strategist. She was a candidate for America Fellow (2012) and has previously worked at Yahoo! as a lead designer for Yahoo! Mail – a product that caters to 260 million users worldwide. Sheba is currently the founder of Tech for Pakistan. She is also on the Go-Fig Solutions Board of Advisers and a User Experience Design Instructor (in both San Francisco and Pakistan).

Then there is Maria Umar who is the founder of Women’s Digital League. She comes from the terrorism-stricken province of Khyber Pakhtunkhua, yet takes this double adversity to positive effect while she runs a one-of-a-kind venture that empowers women from all over the country to work from home while she provides them with online work such as application development, graphic design, content creation, data entry, social media and community management

Following her we have Kalsoom Lakhani, the founder and CEO of Invest2Innovate – a social venture that provides support to seed-stage social enterprises and provides women access to capital in new markets.

Moving to Arjumand  Younus, who recently became Google’s Anita Borg Memorial Scholar for Europe, Middle East and Africa region. Google awards this scholarship to women who excel in computing and technology and who become active role models and leaders. She’s currently doing her PhD at the National University of Ireland.

Simple and a pure workaholic, the next lady on our list is, Rabia Garib. She is the Chief Executive of Toffee TV. Toffee TV is a great learning-aid that helps children learn through stories, songs and many fun activities in Urdu. In addition to this she is the co-founder of Rasala Publications, which focuses on IT trade. She has been honored with Ladies Fund Trailblazer Award, for being a female role model and high achiever in Pakistan. She believes in strenuous hard work and is of the opinion that persistence is the key to success. She also believes that women must not take on a job or start up a business thinking they would become millionaires, rather work every single day and never lose focus.

Inspired by her mother’s courage and constant struggle to stand for what is right, Sabeen Mahmud adopted the same qualities. She was the President of TIE (The Indus Entrepreneurs) and now owns T2F, the Second Floor Café. Her approach to life and situation in Pakistan is very different indeed.

Playing a vital role in the telecom and technology sector is Salaina Haroon. She is the Editor in chief of CIO Pakistan magazine. CIO is the world’s largest business technology leadership magazine. It is printed in many countries around the globe including Pakistan. Also, she is the founder and director of Communique Collective. It is a marketing firm that deals with small and medium enterprises both in Pakistan and abroad.

These are just a few examples of the intelligent, successful women of Pakistan that have made headlines around the world. Were more females to enter the STEM world, Pakistan would undoubtedly soar to great heights.



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