In a world of male-dominated businesses, it is always out of ordinary to see women CEOs running a company. Especially in the tech scene, a territory that has an ever higher number of the male to female ratio. It takes enormous amounts of effort and work for a female entrepreneur to make her mark in the business and tech society. Once the woman makes it, there are a lot of perks and a certain feeling of accomplishment awaiting her.
Meanwhile, her challenges and troubles do not end there. They still face some significant obstacles including lower pay, glass ceiling, disturbed work-life balance and extra pressure, not to mention that all these issues are much more severe in Pakistan.
What are the biggest perks and challenges that come with being a Female CEO? We bring you the info straight from the ladies themselves!
1. Salma Jafri
Salma Jafri is the founder and CEO of WordPL which provides services such as content marketing, social media and online videos. She is a businesswoman and marketer by profession. She also writes as a columnist. Furthermore, Salma Jafri gives her services as a trainer and consultant.
Why it is awesome
- Women today are blessed with enabling technologies that are intuitive to use, easy and cheap to learn. That means they can do so much more with better tech and shorter learning curves than at any other time in history! They can (and do) form different kinds of businesses ranging from fashion to tech and everything in between.
- It’s easier to reach out, build your network, show your expertise and generate sales completely online and all from the comfort of your home if that’s preferable. Women can do more from within those four walls today than they ever could before. They can choose to venture out or build from within – whatever they’re comfortable with. They can truly fly if they want to!
- Women are natural leaders and decision-makers. Any woman who manages her work, her family, her ambitions, her family’s welfare, her social circle etc is an adept leader capable of making numerous decisions every second. More often than not, she has the innate ability to make everyone around her feel appreciated. Those are the very qualities of successful leaders in the corporate world.
See Also: Why the world needs more women in tech
Why it sucks
- Women think with emotion more often. Personally I think that makes for great intuitive businesses that know how to take care of their customers. But there needs to be more of a balance between emotional leadership and practical decisions that will affect the business in the long run.
- Women often need a strong support structure to take their business to the next level. In our society, it’s super hard to progress without the support and mentoring of family, friends and business associates. It can become a limiting factor in some cases although I have seen women who succeed in spite of this.
- Women face more challenges than men and have to prove more to earn more. There was a famous case of a woman copywriter making more money when working under the male pseudonym called James Chartrand. Historically, too, the Bronte sisters used male aliases when authoring their books. J. K. Rowling deliberately chose initials that didn’t give her gender away. Women have always been (wrongly) treated as less capable and that sucks.
2. Sheba Najmi
Sheba Najmi is a Stanford Graduate who founded Code for Pakistan, a tech non-profit. CFP conducts Civic Hackathons in different cities of Pakistan; bringing developers, designers, GIS experts, and problem solvers together to create web and mobile solutions to Pakistan’s civic problems. Plus, she works as a consultant for The World Bank. Sheba Najmi is also a UX designer and product strategist. Moreover, she has also worked as a television news anchor.
Why it’s awesome
- You have access to a small, but very supportive, community of women entrepreneurs, who are willing to help you with their mentorship, time, and skill-sharing.
- You can be helpful and inspiring to other women who feel encouraged by your presence in the entrepreneurial world.
- You get talked about in magazines and blogs.!
Why it sucks
- You feel the need to work harder to prove yourself so you can be taken as seriously.
- It can be intimidating to be the only woman in a group of high profile entrepreneurs and investors.
- You feel greater pressure than your male counterparts to do an equally good job at important non-work-related commitments such as your family.
3. Ammara Farooq Malik
Ammara a lawyer by profession, is now the CEO of SEPLAA Foundation, which is a non-profit and non-partisan organization that performs to empower children, youth & women through various projects. She has also started a project called Impact Change Xcelerator (iCx) which is an incubator for Social Entrepreneurs with the specific aim of peace-building. Ammara Malik also regularly writes and gives seminars and speeches in conferences on ‘leadership’ and ‘women empowerment’.
Why it’s awesome
- Being an intelligent woman in a country such as Pakistan is a big strength that brings with it several opportunities for professional growth and success. Just being a ‘woman’ becomes a reason!
- Being a woman entrepreneur makes you an entrepreneur. And that’s pretty awesome. An entrepreneur is not concerned with being a man or a woman, he or she should be concerned with the business!
- When you go abroad and you have to represent your country, women look better when they sit behind the flag because they make the country’s image progressive!
Why it sucks
- Women constantly have to work harder or double than men at the workplace to be taken as seriously as an average male worker.
- To be taken seriously at a top position in Pakistan at least, you have to wear very conservative clothes that add to your age, I feel that this also mentally ages you prematurely.
- It’s toughest if you have to handle kids alongside work. You see even if the mother is working, she still is “the mother” which the children have to come to when they’re sick. The ugly truth remains that the world does not stop for your child’s sick leave!
4. Maria Umar
Maria is the founder of Women’s Digital League and The Digital League. WDL’s focus is on training rural Pakistani Women in micro online tasks. TDL focuses on a variety of other kinds of computer-based services. Maria is involved with capacity training in the remote northern area of Pakistan in partnership with a local NGO and she also writes.
Why it’s awesome
- I am a woman, I am a tech entrepreneur. What’s not awesome about that!
- Competitors are not worried about me because “Hey, she is a woman – how tough can she be?” So I can do what I want to do in stealth mode and then conquer the world. *evil laugh*
- It brings such a positive focus to Pakistan. There are a lot of stereotypes around Pakistani women but to further sweeten the deal I am a Pushtun woman in a very hardcore male dominated industry. Makes me so proud and happy to tell people they are wrong about Pakistani women. We are as empowered and as strong and as capable as any and of course we do it with the support of our men. Breaking this cliche makes it so awesome to do what I do.
Why it sucks
- I can’t share jokes and slap my colleagues on the back.
- Have to try really hard to make people listen to me instead of looking at me.
- Most employees find it hard to work with a female boss so its hard to find good ones who will stick around.
5. Sidra Qasim
Sidra is the co-founder of Markhor, an e-commerce company which makes and sells high-end leather products by working closely with craftsmen in Pakistan. Since its launch in June 2012, Markhor has grown its sales network to over 17 countries.
Why it’s awesome
- Over the past 4 years and by traveling outside Pakistan, I have realized this tragic truth that mostly our women tend to follow just one certain career and life pattern. But if one is into a start-up life, you’ve to pull so many things to get your business work, which is a great fun and adventure. In short you start working for your dreams and living a much broader life by executing things. Here you have to get out of your comfort zone and allow yourself to make mistakes along the way.
- Given the small number of women entrepreneurs, you feel that you’re among the first one and other females and males are closely watching you and they might start following your path. It gives me a feeling of pride and responsibility especially when you are coming from small town.
- Most of all because I believe the person who will change Pakistan the most in next 5 years will be “a woman.” So, it is awesome to be in that group.
Why it sucks
- It sucks to be woman entrepreneur mainly because of lack of social acceptance in society. Moreover, you have to put a considerable amount of energy to get your family understand your passion and importance of starting your own business. It gets worse when you’ve to work with potential business partners who prefer to speak to your male co-founder and hesitate to communicate clearly with you.
- Instead of judging you by your work and commitment, people give you favour(s) because you are a woman.
- It isn’t easier to raise money and related resources from your family when they just have the plan to spend money on your marriage.
The bottom line is that it is never a piece of cake being a female entrepreneur. They have to work way harder than their male counterparts (on the same level of success) and continue facing various extra challenges. If you’re a female who dreams of starting her own business, weigh the pros and cons before diving in. However, once you understand the challenges and are willing to face them, let the above business savvy ladies be an inspiration to you.