According to research titled “What Works for Women at Work”, women often face a “Prove It Again” …
It was my first day in engineering college and I was immensely excited about my orientation week. During one of the orientation day roundtables, deans from different faculties answered questions from nervous but enthusiastic freshmen. I saw a hand raised in the front rows, the student stood up and asked confidently, “Why don’t engineering universities [decrease the] quota for women? Either they marry in the last year or they never pursue a career.
The girls booed the question a lot as it was popular with the boys. I was particularly disappointed and more interested to see how the Deans would react to this. One responded by telling the audience that the Higher Education Commission has already defined that only merit has priority, not just any gender. He added strongly: “Would you like to marry a woman who is uneducated and who cannot support you in your difficulties?” “
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Like me, Bina Khan, who is now a product owner at technology company TPS, experienced such stereotypes not only when she first started studying computer science, but also when her professional life took off. She graduated from FAST in 2008 and immediately joined TPS. She recently celebrated her 8th working anniversary with the company. While working, she also pursued a post-graduate degree. However, things have not always gone smoothly.
“We were an all-female team that competed in programming competitions all over Karachi. In one of the competitions, a guy pointed out that we were barely going to qualify.”
When Bina was growing up, her family faced serious financial problems. Household income depended on a general store owned by her father and a sewing and embroidery academy run by her mother from home. Despite the financial difficulties, her parents’ priority was to educate their four children. Although there was no personal computer in the house, his older brother still managed to graduate as a computer scientist. Inspired by him, she decides to follow in his footsteps. When she started high school, she already understood the ultimate goal in her life, to enroll in FAST. Being a private university, FAST was too expensive for its family. Her father was determined to make his daughter’s dream come true, so he took out loans to finance her education. Meanwhile, Bina knew she had to take responsibility for paying back her parents.
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The stereotypes that haunt women in tech demotivated Bina on many occasions. She, nonetheless, was strong and daring enough to refute all stereotypes. She recalls: “We were a team of girls who entered programming competitions all over Karachi. In one of the competitions, a guy pointed out that we are hardly going to qualify. All of my male colleagues were no different. Still, we didn’t pay attention and continued our commitment and hard work. “
According to research called “What Works for Women at Work”, women often face a “Prove It Again” bias. They must constantly provide solid evidence of their competence. Two-thirds of the women interviewed for this research had encountered this bias.
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When Bina joined TPS, she discovered that some of her colleagues believed that women couldn’t have careers, especially in tech. However, Bina was fortunate enough to discover that the general mindset of the top leadership was progressive and that they valued gender diversity. Despite being part of an all-male team, she received early promotions on two occasions. Two years ago, when TPS made some changes in the organizational hierarchy by introducing dedicated product development departments, Bina was promoted to become the first female product manager and owner of Prisma and PayAxis.
Bina believes that many parents are reluctant to let their daughters work for their paranoia about work environments. She finds tech jobs the most comfortable and flexible for women.
Bina smiles and says, “I’ve been generally pessimistic, but over the years I’ve realized that you can only prove yourself by working hard. When I started at TPS I looked at my teammates (mostly men) and always thought it would be a tough task to work with them. The possibility of growth seemed bleak. I never really thought that I would be leading a team in the near future!
Bina elegantly puts on an Abaya (dress) and a Hijab (scarf). In her free time, she learns about technology and takes an Arabic course. Bina believes that many parents are reluctant to let their daughters work for their paranoia about work environments. She finds tech jobs the most comfortable and flexible for women. In the workplace, she only maintains her interaction with her male colleagues in a formal way. She advises, “If you’re a girl who doesn’t want unnecessary interaction with the opposite sex other than work, that doesn’t mean your attitude will become hostile towards them. Being polite in this situation will do wonders and you will be respected by your coworkers.
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To promote technology to young girls, it is essential to raise awareness of the importance of IT in transforming personal and professional life.
Bina believes that while the pace is perhaps a bit slow, the active participation of women, however, increases gender diversity. Workplaces now take into account the comfort level of women and offer them the flexibility to increase their productivity. Workplaces that do not constitute a support structure for women are only lagging behind. Bina recognizes that the pay gap exists not only for tech jobs, but sadly across industries. However, she readily declares: “At TPS, our hiring process is performance-based. The better you perform, the better the chances of getting higher pay scales. Likewise, promotions and positive reviews are based solely on the visibility of your work and the effort you put into a project.
“It is normal to question yourself. You just need to define your goals and things will start to move in the right direction. In due course obstacles and challenges will arise; however, don’t let any of them hold you back.
Bina says IT has become essential. To promote technology to young girls, it is essential to raise awareness of the importance of IT in transforming personal and professional life. Having spent a lot of time in tech, Bina recognizes that stereotypes about girls in tech are slowly changing. Previously, only a handful of women made careers. Nowadays, a growing number of young girls are actively participating in breaking down stereotypes that prevent women from pursuing technological careers.
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Bina says that sometimes girls underestimate themselves for incompetent coders. “It is normal to question yourself. You just need to define your goals and things will start to move in the right direction. In due course obstacles and challenges will arise; however, don’t let any of them hold you back.
As our conversation comes to an end, Bina says we need to expose our young girls to more opportunities and encourage them to be brave enough to pursue a career in tech. For girls who are reluctant to pursue a career, she sets herself up as an example and offers remarkable advice.
“Always remember that you will have to walk an extra mile. Do not be hostile towards your colleagues, have a positive and polite attitude. Until recently, I was the only female product owner and had to make sure my job shone. I firmly believe that your efforts always pay off.
This article was originally published here and has been reproduced with permission.