Pakistan is one of the bottom 10 countries with regards to the participation of women in the workforce, according to World Bank Statistics. A similar situation exists in almost all countries that share borders with Pakistan. Are women destined to surrender to societal factors and family pressures, forced to give up their hopes, dreams, and ambitions? In a society where women are still considered as the ‘weaker sex’ by some, and it is mostly men who are deemed worthy of acquiring an education, the career path for a woman not only becomes difficult but also next to impossible.
However, the situation is gradually becoming better. More and more women are acquiring higher education and leaving behind their male counterparts in terms of accomplishments and grades. From 2012-2013, a rough estimate of 814,039 women enrolled in universities in Pakistan. Although this figure may seem pleasing, it is the tiny percentage of turn-over from a graduate to a career woman that is disappointing.
The reasons are simple: women in this part of the world are expected to get married and start a family at a certain age, look after their homes, and completely forget about personal ambitions and accomplishments. Moreover, inflexible company policies to accommodate women, self-doubt and fear of being labeled as a ‘bad mother’ or ‘corrupt woman’, are other factors that hinder these women from utilizing their talents.
“I became a mother very recently and it is not feasible for me to go out and work in the field so I would like some opportunity where I can work from home as I find that constructive for my professional progress as well as mental solace.”
This is just one example of the hundreds of dilemmas recorded in the online portal www.HerCareer.pk under a section that allows jobseekers to express their personal statements.
www.HerCareer.pk hosts an innovative, professional online career community that specializes in providing work opportunities to Pakistani women and connecting companies to the relevant women jobseekers. Founded in 2013, it is the first-ever online community in Pakistan which provides a common platform for companies and women to network with one another.
A study by Women@Work reveals that for Pakistani women to succeed at work they require support by their family, a safe working environment, a balance between work and family responsibilities, and gender equality from their seniors at work.
The idea for the online portal started as an inspiration and passion to change the face of the career-oriented women of Pakistan. Every day, I saw extraordinary, capable women losing constant battles, struggling to be a part of the corporate world. My motivation to boost female participation and create a more balanced workplace led me to create an online community on Facebook. After considerable success and encouragement, I was eventually prompted to create an online portal to connect passionate women to leading organizations.
The aim of this portal is to connect women to onsite jobs or work-from-home projects or guide them to launch their own Internet-based businesses. The fact that online portal’s Facebook inbox receives dozens of applications and guidance and help requests is enough to prove how effective making money online can be for these women can be. With the help of an online platform, not only can they save time, money and energy from personal job hunting but also easily gain the support of family members.
“I’m a homemaker with kids and can’t do a 9 to5 job. I’ve studied Software Engineering and am very fond of baking. I can’t run my own business due to my husband’s nature of job. I believe I’m creative enough but just don’t know how to channel my skills.” says one of the talented jobseekers.
The amount of requests by women who wish to become a part of the portal, the number of companies that have shown interest in partnering or registering with the project and the participation of jobseekers on the engaging career advice and mentor section in the portal’s blog site,1 are all indicators of the positive trends seen in this space. The ever-increasing database of the portal includes both fresh graduates and experienced, competent women from some of the most prestigious universities worldwide such as Harvard, Cambridge, University of Toronto, Lahore University of Management Sciences and Institute of Business Administration. One of the talented job seekers wrote:
“I am a young and energetic girl currently studying Media Sciences. In this era where things are turning digital at a rapid pace, I think my education and skills will take me far in the world of advertising and media. I would like access to career opportunities so that I can start my career and do big things with my life.”
Over the course of several months, the online portal has undergone tremendous growth, showing immense potential for the future. Recently, I was featured by the US Pakistan Women’s Council because of the success of www.HerCareer.pk. Numerous organizations including Coca Cola, Hewlett- Packard Pakistan, the British Council, Pakistan TeleCommunication Limited and 4M Designers have partnered with the project and have been successful in connecting more than 45 of the exceptional, highly talented women jobseekers to various jobs in such a short span of time.
A recent addition to the online portal’s portfolio includes a business plan competition which was held on our Facebook page.2 Women were asked to share their entrepreneurial ideas and the most creative ones will be selected, funded and mentored. The idea is to support women entrepreneurs through every step of the process to establish themselves.
The online portal itself is a prime example of self advocacy. It has been successful in generating employment for 10 females, who are working as program managers, graphic designers and bloggers via virtual projects. Through job postings on social media forums, the portal has also helped several women and companies in finding the right match for their requirements.
Countless studies have proved that companies with a higher proportion of women in senior management and executive positions have a significantly higher return on assets, share value and financial assets. Even if the portal succeeds to employ a mere 1 percent of the 3.6 million female graduates at an estimate of $250, it creates a net female worth of $9 million per month for Pakistan. If these numbers were taken into the broader context of including the Middle East and North Africa, one can only imagine how much women could contribute to the world economy.
Considering the fact that women of other nations like India, the UAE and the Middle East also suffer from a similar fate, the online portal plans to go global soon and launch its services in these regions.
Through the support of the dedicated and talented female workforce, corporate partners and highly appreciated endorsers, www.HerCareer.pk envisions a brighter, better world with enhanced female economic participation and a balanced workplace.