In recent years, there have been significant improvements in fostering gender equality in Pakistan. Pakistani women today are more likely to participate in the labor force, the private and public sectors, and access health and education services, than previous generations. Fortunately, women don’t have to wait for another generation before they begin closing the gap as they are building up the skills that today’s evolving job market requires besides becoming increasingly aware of the skills of the future.
6 Digital Skills Nurturing Women’s Empowerment in Pakistan
Women today can take steps to improve their access to opportunities and forge paths for young women who will follow them tomorrow. Cultivating the following skills will position women to claim their places in tech roles:
1) Computer literacy
In Pakistan, like most developing countries, digital skills begin with a rudimentary understanding that focuses on computer literacy. Young women need to develop comfort and familiarity with computers including word processing, databases software, and antivirus programs along with learning essential internet norms. This basic approach to the machine helps to demystify the computer and the web which has been observed to create more confidence in women thereby encouraging them to learn more technical skills. Familiarity and confidence with technology can lead not only to profitable careers but deeply impactful ones as well. Mobile technology is being used in a number of areas to improve the lives of women and children globally.
Not all girls need to pursue advanced technological careers, but an understanding of different technologies and how they might apply to a range of scenarios will empower them to create groundbreaking solutions that could potentially save lives and reduce inequities.
Programming is a highly lucrative career with varying levels of compensation or salaries in different markets, but the good news is that even women who do not have access to a university-level education can learn programming skills via online courses that are either low-cost or free. In Pakistan, women may find government support as well through different collaborations between public private partnerships or initiatives. Such initiatives help women overcome economic and educational barriers to develop competitive digital skills.
Pakistani programs rightly emphasize the value of basic programming skills and tech literacy. By encouraging women to understand how technology works so that they can have a say in how technology is developed and used, and what kinds of challenges are solved using technology. Girls and women are not just consumers of technology, but can also be creators.
3) Artificial Intelligence
Artificial intelligence (AI), a relatively nascent field in Pakistan includes subsets such as machine learning, deep learning, and natural language processing. These functions are now appearing in everything from smart home assistants to autonomous vehicles, and they have become ever-present over the years. There is a strong demand worldwide for programmers who can build and work with AI programs. Women who are not inclined to become AI programmers would still be well-served by familiarizing themselves with the theory behind the technology and its implications in their fields. An understanding of AI will be critical as the technology is used more widely. Jobs will be created in development, programming, testing, support and maintenance.
4) Virtual Reality
Virtual reality is being used more widely in fields such as entertainment and medical therapies, illustrating its value outside the gaming industry. An understanding of technology can help women develop innovative strategies. A woman working in virtual reality could become a programmer directly building the software, or she can serve the cause in another capacity, whether that is in business strategy, marketing, or consumer outreach.
5) Data Science
Data science professionals are increasingly in demand as companies attempt to not only capture as much information as possible about their customers and market but to extract insights from it. The ability to work with data positions women to engage in interesting and important work. Data is hugely important to improving human rights and creating new opportunities for underserved populations. Telenor partnered with UNICEF and government agencies in Pakistan to start the Digital Birth Registration program, equipping health workers with mobile devices that could be used to capture birth registration information. Unregistered children are more vulnerable to trafficking, early marriage, and exploitive labor schemes, and they are disadvantaged from social and health benefits, as well as other important services.
6) Digital Marketing
Digital marketing plays a key role in spreading information about innovative tech products and advances. Women who are interested in a particular area of tech but do not want to take on a technical career can develop careers as digital marketers in those fields. Engaging and converting users is highly important, particularly when companies and organizations are introducing new ideas to their target audiences. Key digital marketing areas include SEO, content marketing, pay per click advertising, voice search, podcasting, video content, and conversion optimization.
Women should also position themselves for digital opportunities when they cultivate a suite of 21st century skills that apply across industries. Women should invest in their critical thinking, creative, and communication abilities, as well as their social acumen and tech and media literacy. These skills will prove pivotal to maintaining strong career potential as automation and AI drive massive change at every level. Critical thinking and interpersonal skills will be at a premium as automation and AI become more prevalent.
The digital skills gap need not persist. As organizations and companies recognize the importance of mentorship and inclusivity, more women will be able to move into high-level tech positions and create paths for future generations.
A level playing field will encourage young girls and women to explore tech fields in their studies and careers. Importantly, women can also empower themselves by advocating for new opportunities, choosing to learn tech concepts, and claiming their seats at the table — and thus they will close the digital skills gap one program at a time.
Empowering women in the economy and closing gender gaps in the world of work are keys to achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The ICT sector is one of the strongest drivers of innovation and growth in the global economy. Increasing women’s representation in ICT would provide them, their families and their society with better economic opportunities while improving and accelerating the growth of the digital economy. Women’s economic empowerment boosts productivity, increases economic diversification and income equality in addition to other positive development outcomes.