How women-only online spaces are inspiring Pakistan’s girls to thrive together – NehalBlog

“We do not know any girls who work in tech moreover you and Jehan Ara. And we all know you since you educate us.

This assertion from one of many college students in my class modified the trajectory of my profession.

In 2016, I used to be instructing at a non-public college as a visiting professor, and there have been six ladies in a category of over fifty college students. They all the time sat in the identical nook and by no means contributed something to the dialogue. At first, what appeared like disinterest to me turned out to be despair about their future, and so they felt uncomfortable contributing to a category stuffed with boys. I requested the ladies to remain after one of many lessons, and that dialog gave me perspective and a mission.

Later that night, I launched WomenInTechPK, Pakistan’s largest women-only tech neighborhood. It began as one thing I needed to do for my college students, grew right into a nationwide motion, after which turned carefully tied to my skilled identification.

Faiza Yousuf was a panelist throughout a dialogue on girls within the office at GDG Kolachi’s DevFest final yr. — Photograph by the creator

Girls-only areas are nothing new, particularly in Pakistan the place we’re nonetheless a largely conservative society, but it surely’s a special story in the case of on-line areas. In lots of on-line discourses, you will discover individuals (learn: males) complaining about being excluded.

They really feel it is sexist and discriminatory, and I have been known as a misandrist on a number of events, together with many different founders and admins of women-only communities, particularly on Fb.

This exclusion has a nuance, and I wish to speak about it. After I created the neighborhood and determined to maintain it women-only, the one purpose was to make sure girls had a protected house the place they might contribute with none undesirable consideration or potential bullying and harassment.

Each time somebody requested me about this gender restriction coverage, that is what I stated, however then I got here throughout a e book known as “The Artwork of Gathering” by Priya Parker. The e book shouldn’t be about on-line communities or areas, however about planning and internet hosting occasions, however the concepts shared in his e book might be utilized to on-line areas as properly.

Priya, in her e book, says, “Considerate exclusion is important to any gathering or aim, as a result of extreme inclusion signifies an absence of dedication to the aim. Good exclusion prompts variety, so a girls’s circle ‘for ladies solely’, the place they’re protected to specific components of themselves that they in any other case conceal, is activating variety.”

His concepts made me perceive why purpose-driven communities with significant and considerate guidelines and management thrive and produce nice outcomes. For a similar purpose, now we have seen communities like Soul Sisters Pakistan, Femprow, Ask the Village and Linked Girls Pakistan doing incredible work to attach, upskill and empower girls.

Have a good time femininity

Tanya Imran, founding father of the Fb neighborhood Ask the Village which has practically 65,000 all-female members, additionally acknowledged the necessity to create protected areas only for girls.

“As a neighborhood chief and group administrator at Ask the Village, what’s stunning about an all-female neighborhood is the way it has helped girls of their private {and professional} development by appreciating and recognizing the distinctive set of circumstances and anchors that maintain girls again,” she stated.

Tanya emphasised that ladies want protected areas the place they are often seen, heard and the place their emotions are acknowledged. “Ask the Village Awards for a platform the place we rejoice womanhood, with its challenges and struggles.”

Faiza Yousuf (center) with the CaterpillHERs team.  — Photo by the author
Faiza Yousuf (middle) with the CaterpillHERs workforce. — Photograph by the creator

We’d like these areas not just for girls’s security and to foster connection, but additionally to offer them an area to open up about experiences they might not sometimes share publicly as a consequence of concern of damaging reactions or sufferer blaming. These embrace a variety of points, corresponding to office harassment, cyberbullying, discrimination and even unsafe workplace environments.

Inside these areas, we see an outpouring of shared tales, mutual help, and constructive options from members. Most of those communities additionally present talent improvement alternatives for his or her members in order that they’ll comfortably search recommendation and study in an surroundings that isn’t hostile. In our case, we collaborate with varied native and worldwide organizations to supply studying and dealing alternatives for our members.

Promote skilled improvement areas reserved for ladies

Samana Hassan leads ConsultNet Company’s packages, together with CodeGirls, Pakistan’s best-known community-funded coding bootcamp for women and girls. She additionally believed in the necessity to promote skilled improvement areas reserved for ladies.

“In a society like ours, the place girls are sometimes confronted with prejudice and the place the training system doesn’t meet the coaching and improvement wants of the skilled world, it’s all the extra essential to advertise skilled improvement areas reserved for ladies,” stated Samana, highlighting how members are sometimes hesitant to reply their questions.

Faiza Yousuf (far right) and Samana Hassan (far left) with the CodeGirls team, signing an MoU with TechValley.  — Photo by the author
Faiza Yousuf (far proper) and Samana Hassan (far left) with the CodeGirls workforce, signing an MoU with TechValley. — Photograph by the creator

Separate skilled improvement areas, she added, permit girls to embrace what they’re captivated with and permit them to specific their desires, face their fears and harness their distinctive talents.

“It may be monumental when it comes to development and innovation for the trade itself,” Samana instructed me.

Even I believe the journey hasn’t been solely clean. We have confronted challenges like coping with threats and derogatory feedback from people who’ve been banned for breaking the principles. I’ve additionally encountered conditions the place enterprise homeowners threatened to sue me as a result of neighborhood members shared their damaging experiences with their organizations.

Handle WomenInTechPK

There have been circumstances the place males tried to trick moderators into coming into the neighborhood, and even conversations inside the neighborhood discovered their approach to tabloids and incel teams.

On prime of all this, I’ve personally confronted on-line hostility from individuals who criticized me for hiring girls as tokens. Even so, our work to construct this neighborhood has immeasurable worth, justifying each ounce of effort now we have invested.

“For the previous 5 years, I’ve actively moderated and managed the women-only neighborhood “WomenInTechPK”, which has had a big impression on my profession,” stated Yumna Asim, Techno-Purposeful Advisor at EPM Companions and l ‘one of many members of WomenInTechPK. moderators.

Yumna highlighted that the neighborhood has facilitated connections with girls in its know-how discipline, permitting them to share alternatives and help one another of their skilled development.

Meeting of the WomenInTechPK community.  — Photo by the author
Assembly of the WomenInTechPK neighborhood. — Photograph by the creator

“It additionally allowed me to be acknowledged inside a helpful skilled community of girls, thus growing my visibility. Moreover, being a part of this neighborhood has allowed me to supply recommendation and help to others,” she added.

The tech skilled highlighted that women-only communities deal with challenges that ladies usually face, corresponding to restricted networks and social interactions, thereby considerably contributing to their private {and professional} development.

Managing a neighborhood of 10,000+ members might be exhausting, however operating a niche-specific and comparatively civil house like WomenInTechPK is simpler than different huge on-line communities. Since its inception, WomenInTechPK has acquired large help from native and worldwide organizations. We discovered collaborators and companions and have been capable of problem stereotypes and alter the narrative of girls working in Pakistan’s tech ecosystem.

Applications like CodeGirls, platforms like, Pakistan Software program Home Affiliation variety committee and framework are a few of our contributions. We have partnered with over 100 conferences, occasions and meet-ups to make sure girls are each within the viewers and on stage. Since 2019, now we have printed practically 100 interviews with our members, strengthening their digital footprint and serving to them join with wider audiences and alternatives.

Place on the desk

“Having a seat on the desk may be very completely different from having a voice or having your voice heard,” stated Arooma Naqvi, program supervisor of CaterpillHERs – an entrepreneurship and profession accelerator for ladies by girls.

In a workforce primarily led by males, she added, women-only areas provoke vital and intimate conversations that in any other case hardly ever happen.

“There’s a sure degree of respect and familiarity as a result of the ladies round you perceive the complexity of your challenges. You’ll be able to speak, share and study much more if you’re not preventing to be heard on the desk,” Arooma stated, pointing to research revealing that ladies communicate a lot much less when they’re outnumbered by males in discussions. of group. Areas reserved for ladies have to be given precedence. for the skilled improvement of girls.

Shamim Rajani (left) and Faiza Yousuf at the hackathon for Cryptochicks, 2019. — Image by author
Shamim Rajani (left) and Faiza Yousuf on the hackathon for Cryptochicks, 2019. — Picture by creator

On-line areas for ladies permit many ladies to interrupt out of social isolation and so they can join with different girls who can’t solely empathize with them, but additionally supply them options and even share their very own experiences for them. show you how to really feel related and heard.

These communities additionally play a significant position in altering our perceptions of girls in on-line areas, at residence and within the office. We would like girls to thrive by participating in significant conversations and expressing themselves authentically, with out the limitations and biases they sometimes encounter in on-line areas not only for them.

Faiza Yousuf is a software program engineer with over 13 years of expertise constructing know-how merchandise and groups. She leads initiatives corresponding to WomenInTechPK, CodeGirls and CaterpillHERs to enhance the inclusion of girls in know-how and the economic system. She posts @FaizaYousuf

Header and thumbnail illustration by Kiran Saeed

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