Dear Prime Minister Imran Khan. Your Government yesterday issued a Federal Cabinet notification for a newly formed Task Force on Science & Technology. Out of 13 members, Task Force has zero women. Zero. Zilch. Shunay!
As the Chief Executive, you must be aware that women comprise close to half the population of Pakistan; 48.63 percent of the citizens to be precise. You must also be aware that the country you head is the second worst in the world for gender parity? World Economic Forum ranks Pakistan at the 148 out of 149 countries on gender gap index. Did you ever wonder why? Composition of your task force is one answer.
Ironically, the first focus point for the aligned task force is the need for inclusive and equitable promotion of science and technology in Pakistan. On the contrary, Task Force is itself neither inclusive nor equitable. It fails the highly qualified Pakistani women in science and technology, discourages all norms of participatory policy and governance while eventually disheartens the young high schools girls and women in work force. Through this non-inclusive and discriminatory taskforce, you’re sending a message that women and girls can’t be leaders in science technology, engineering and mathematics.
The UNESCO Institute for Statistics reports that female researchers comprise close to 34 percent of all Pakistani researchers. Most amongst them are engaged in health sciences followed by 22.7 percent engineering and technology.
An all-male task force entrusted with the responsibility to increase inclusive access to science and technology, by all means, falls short of understanding the challenges of women in STEM in absence of female perspective on board. Such Task Forces without gender diversity only bolsters the baseless excuse that there are not enough qualified women around. Men only representation seems to be becoming a norm. You, as the head of the government, should not allow only men to have conversations about women, without actually giving women a seat at the table and excluding them from national policy.
A slight effort and the Cabinet would have known a number of highly qualified, accomplished and promising women who have championed the cause of promoting science in the country.
I hope you will not just reconsider this notification but make sure it is revised to make it inclusive and participatory by taking amazing Pakistani women on board who voted for you — the Prime Minister.