12 exceptional Pakistani Women in Business and Technology
Never underestimate the power of a woman because someone who after God has the capability to bring a life on Earth definitely has the strength to change destiny. Delicate and compassionate, a woman surely is but that should never be mistaken as weakness or incapability. The first and foremost version of her that is respected and recognized is of a mother, which truly deserves all the appreciation in the world. However they are capable of being diverse too. Initially, the best professions considered for women were teaching or medicine but times have changed.
Women all around the world are playing their part not only in the nurturing of nations but also as the work force needed to uplift the economic position of a country. We must be grateful to them for their sincerity and commitment. Here in our country after the 16 years of education, without further plans for education or careers, it is a must for girls to get married. It is in our opinion a very sacred bond, a bond which provides security, strength and completion to not only the individuals getting married but to the society as a whole. But seeing it as a full stop to both the prospects of further studies and careers is not justified in any way. Pakistani women have certainly walked out of this framework of life and excelled in many fields like journalism, philanthropy, IT world, engineering, politics e.t.c.
They have proved themselves to be both great mothers and well-reputed, significant citizens. Today we would like to highlight the achievements and contribution of Pakistani Women in Business and Technology. Here are those twelve ladies, in no particular order but equally outstanding in their contributions.
1- JEHAN ARA
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 of 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.
2- RABIA GARIB
Simple and a pure workaholic, that’s the lady next on our list, 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 LadiesFund 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 explains that women must not take on a job or start up a business thinking they would become millionaires, rather working every single day and not losing focus is the main thing. She herself works round the clock and is playing her best to make mark on this world and helping in any way she can.
3- SABEEN MAHMOOD
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. She is a strong believer of activism. Her café T2F is situated in Karachi. It is a platform that encourages healthy discussions and debate on the current issues of Pakistan. It engages the audience in many cultural activities, bringing writers and poets together. It also organizes art exhibitions, hence providing a wholesome goodness to the people’s mind. Sabeen who once was a part of corporate world, now focuses much more on creating awareness among people and educating them through this venture, T2F café is actually a project of “Peace Niche” (also founded and directed by Sabeen herself, it is a non profit organization that promotes resolving political conflicts and arguments through different cultural engagements. It mostly works on the areas of Art & culture, Science & technology and advocacy)
Some other projects that come under Peace Niche include “Faraar”, “Science ka adda” and so on.
4- SALAINA HAROON
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. The firm works for building and strategizing technological companies. It also focuses on Public Relations, impact of social media on News companies and bettering the position of Pakistan on an international level. Salina believes in exploring and involvement of a person in different workshops, conferences e.t.c. that helps to realize, understand the on going circumstances and work in accordance to them. She herself was a part of EISHENHOWER Fellowship.
5- SAMINA FAZIL
Next, we put the spotlight on the woman, who had the first garment business in the city of Islamabad, Samina Fazil. She is the owner of Mishas Collection. She started off in 1989 as a small business unit that dealt with children’s garments. Her initial invested amount was only Rs.100, 000 which she had obtained from her family. With a small amount and no prior experience in this male dominant industry, Samina set out to achieve her dream.
She needed skilled tailors, raw materials, a start-up location and so much more. But there was no one to teach her the basics or even give a proper guideline. So, as it happens, time became the teacher. At last in 1991, she opened up her own shop in Main Murree road Rawalpindi. She started marketing her clothes by making brochures, taking part in exhibitions, giving out dresses for television shows and the newspaper fashion shoots. This strategy did the trick and the business boomed. With her utmost hard work and determination today we have in front of us The Mishas Collection and a lady who provides inspiration and guidance to several other women out there. Not to forget she also actively plays the role of the President in Islamabad Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
6- NIDA FARID
With the power crises being a major issue in Pakistan, we have smart and sensible lady next on this list Nida Farid. She has a bachelor degree in Aerospace Engineering from MIT. She did her Masters in Mechanical Engineering from ETHZurich, Switzerland. Impressed already? Well hold on there. She is a proficient in aircraft manufacturing, wind energy, power segments and energy conservation. With all her knowledge and enthusiasm, she came back to her country Pakistan and started off with her project “Karachi Energy Conservation Awareness-Small Tricks for Large Savings”
In her opinion by educating and creating awareness in the upper class of Karachi, 70% of the power crisis could be resolved. She explains that using lesser energy by turning off lights and fans is one thing, but buying the right appliance matters just the same. It could be by the right choice of appliance that we save more energy. Power crisis she believes is an issue that needs to be dealt immediately and with all the sincerity, since energy issue could lead to closing down of industries hence affecting the employment of several people. This doesn’t end here. It’s like a chain reaction which would bring about first poverty, illiteracy and many other social issues as well. Her efforts are truly remarkable and deserve appreciation!
7- ROSHANEH ZAFAR
Roshaneh Zafar is the managing director of “Kashf foundation”. This foundation educates and funds the women working in villages, in order to better their economic condition. She herself has been educated from Yale University and Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania. She started off Kashf foundation after leaving her job post at World Bank. Kashf foundation is a national program that spread from KPK, Sindh and now to Balochistan. This foundation provides value driven solution to families of the underprivileged areas and its main concentration lays micro-financing female led small businesses and start-ups. The company stands by its notable services and the credit goes to none other than, Roshaneh Zafar, who believes in the capacity of women and giving them the opportunity to grow by all means.
8- SHEBA NAJMI
This great lady started off simple as a news anchor and reporter for Indus Television. She was the host of “Press Review”. The show concentrated on current affairs and their discussion with several political figures, ambassadors and analysts. She got her BS and MS degree from Stanford University in Symbolic Systems, where she studied the interaction between humans and computers. She was a Fellow at “Code for America” and became part of several notable projects like “Honolulu Answers” and “Social Media handbook for Cities”. She was also the lead designer for seven years for Yahoo Mail. This talented woman is the founder of “Tech for Change” which is a non profit organization, which focuses on bringing entrepreneurs, developers and designers together in order to help and eliminate most of Pakistan’s civic problems. In addition to this she in her own words is “primarily interested in leading UX or Product, ideally at mission-focused social enterprises that are seriously out to transform the world.”
9- SALMA JAFRI
A mom and a business woman, she’s the lady taking care of both worlds. However, she is of the opinion that being a mother is definitely harder of the two jobs but mostly it’s the handling of both of these that’s the bigger challenge. After her MBA she like all other ambitious graduates headed out to look for a job. She had her first interview with the CEO of a small multi national company, who happened to know her grandfather as well. This sounds like a job already in the pocket doesn’t it? Well here’s the truth she never got it. The CEO being well aware of her grandfather knew that “girls of their family got married soon to become housewives”. That was the moment she realized she was not going to get hired because she was a woman. But soon after this she got a job at the Pakistan arm of Deloitte & Touche. Today she stands in front of the world as a successful “content marketer”, the term she uses for herself. She is the founder and CEO of WordPL.net, which basically, focuses on marketing the content any young entrepreneur, wants to put up through social media. There areas of expertise are blog and content writing, social media marketing and planning, online videos and marketing consultation.
10- KALSOOM LAKHANI
Kalsoom Lakhani is the CEO of i2i (invest2innovate). The company not only recognizes the budding entrepreneurs in Pakistan, but also trains them through a four month program and finally connects them to investors. It encourages and motivates entrepreneurs and helps them stabilize. The company started its work in Pakistan in 2011 and is determined to expand to other countries as well. Before i2i, Kalsoom has also worked as a managing director in Social Vision. She got Bachelor degree from University of Virginia in Foreign Affairs and Middle East Events, she also holds Masters Degree from George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs in International Affairs/Conflict Resolution. Her achievements also include being the co-ambassador of SandBox, member of World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers. She is the founder of CHUP (Changing Up Pakistan) which brings forth and creates awareness on the issues of Pakistan.
11- MARIA UMAR
Another talented name comes down in this list of entrepreneurs, Maria Umar, the founder of “The Women’s Digital League”. She was a school teacher. After being refused maternity leave, she quit her job. Later she started writing for another lady, who she had found through the well known job portal “Rozee.pk”. One thing led to another and she found her employers oDesk profile. She then realized that she too could directly contact clients and help herself out better. These became the origins of a humble content creating business. She set up her own oDesk account, gave away a few jobs of writing starting from her own family. Gradually it became what we call “The Women’s Digital League”. This company gives a chance to all the educated young girls to get a job in the digital world. The key is the positive utilization of social media that helps writers connect with the clients across the globe. The company has been expanded to “The Digital League”, a platform for Pakistan’s digital workforce, which provides digital solutions to individuals and corporate clients. She truly believes in the empowerment of women and has continually played her part to show her conviction.
12- SABA GUL
There are few of us, who after a worthy degree in hand bother to think about someone other than themselves. Here, we’d like to mention someone whose education did not solely benefit her but also the under-privileged. Saba Gul did bachelors and masters from MIT. She studied Computer Sciences and Economics. She is a successful entrepreneur that runs a non profit organization Popinjay (previously named BLISS), which helps girls, and their families of Pakistan, living below the poverty line to get education. They are taught languages English and Urdu, Mathematics and lessons on skills and entrepreneurship. These girls are trained to design and create handbags. These handbags become a source of income and pay for the tuitions for at least 4 or 6 months. She has been a part of other projects too. She was a MIT Public Service Fellow in Sri Lanka, where she worked on economical solar lighting that helped out tsunami refugees. She is definitely the kind working for the greater good of humanity.
The extensive list above is the living proof of the fact that women are indeed capable of working and excelling beyond all confinements and expectations. Mentioned above are just 12 of the amazing women in the world of business and technology, when there are so many more that ought to be discussed and praised for their contributions. A hearty round of applause from our side to all these great Pakistani women, they have made us proud indeed!