In our latest series of articles, we want to highlight the wonderful women from Pakistan who are the movers and shakers of their tech scene. Pakistan is a country which earns a reputation for all the wrong reasons. However, it is full of amazing and talented people. In this article, we focus on Saima Karim. Read more about her below.
Tell us a little about yourself, your background, your work and your motivations:
I am an IT professional from Gilgit Baltistan. Back in 2008, I moved to Karachi for higher studies. I took admission in FAST. I never knew that the path I was going to choose would be a roller caster ride. I left Gilgit with my own dreams to achieve something but with the passage of time, I realized, it’s not going to be easy. I lived alone in Karachi for 6 years including 4 years of my studies & 2 years of my professional career in IT. Surely, I am die hard mountain girl to survive in any situation. That’s how we are brought up in mountains.
Along with IT field, I have a passion for sports. Sometimes, I feel sad that I could never take sports professionally but I never kept sports away from myself. From school to college & university to professional career, I have always played a lot of sports. I have played cricket, football, basketball, baseball (Yes, baseball in Gilgit), volleyball, throw ball, & many more. In one office, I used to be only one girl who played table tennis. I represented Pakistan in Table tennis in Jubilee games Dubai 2016. I hope, I have never let my sports-self down anytime and I never will.
My grandfather was a man of principles. He helped me in sports because he used to say that sports build character. I think this has always been my great motivation. I have moved to Islamabad. Currently, I am supporting an IT startup with tech products. I do have a blog focusing on technology, sports and education.
Do you think Pakistan has changed as a society, in terms of letting women take on jobs?
More than changed, I will like to use the word improved. Pakistan is improving as a society for women to take on jobs. I’ll give credit to Internet & social media which is a tool with greater impact.
What do you think is the most significant barrier to female leadership?
I think, accepting female on a leadership position is one big barrier. When you don’t see females in leadership positions, unintentionally you feel like females can’t do it & you don’t even try to think or accept such powerful women. It’s easy to make stories about female leaders but difficult to accept such leaders when you haven’t seen any in past.
What is the best and worst decision you’ve ever made?
It will be biased to mark any decision best or worst. Because every decision you make, right or wrong, teaches you something new. Every decision you make helps you in making your life better in one way or other. There are decisions which for a time being I thought were worst but later I realized that due to those decisions, I had such experiences that taught me to be firm or take a stand.
What woman inspires you and why?
If you are asking which woman inspires me then Sania Mirza & Serena Williams. Both have inspirational stories to learn from. If you look into their life stories, they have faced so much criticism in terms of region & race. But both women stayed firm, worked hard & both became number one in the world. I get inspired by them for their focus & dedication to the work they are doing.
Do we have any role models for women? If not, what can we do to create them in Pakistan?
I like to use inspiration instead of role model. Role model demands perfection. Inspiration gives you space to adopt that attitude in your life. There are inspirations like Sana Mir who lead women cricket team. Thanks to her that we know women cricket team do exist in Pakistan.
When I first started my job, my first project manager was a woman. They way, she used to balance her work & personal life was amazing. She gave me a hope that IT is a right career to choose. So, there are inspirations. We need to give them more space. We need to highlight their work on wider platforms like tech blogs, media.
Is there a neutral platform or forum for women to discuss their career needs?
I am part of a Facebook group, ‘Women in Tech for Pakistan’ that has 3k women in it. Faiza Yousuf started this group last year. This group gives a platform for women to discuss IT matters. I have witnessed some amazing discussions in this group where women were talking about career growth in IT for women, challenges for women etc. There are freelancers, entrepreneurs, solopreneurs etc. So far, it has been greet platform. In fact, I got to know about some amazing women in tech whom I never heard of.
What will be the biggest challenge for the generation of women behind you?
‘With great power, come great responsibilities’ – Yes, where internet & social media has given women more power, responsibilities have increased. For next generations, these are going to be responsibilities to stay consistent & not to lose track. With so many choices in hand, it is going to be a responsibility to find passion & dedicatedly follow it. Yes, these responsibilities are going to be challenging when there are easier ways to distract.
What needs to change to help more women come forward?
Perception & attitude. More acceptance that there can be women with a stronger voice & firm leadership.
If you could change one thing, what would it be?
I’ll add playing grounds in every single school.
How can OxGadgets and its readers help you and other women of the industry?
Everyone can play a role by creating awareness about support women providing in IT industry. Mentioning women in Tech will help bring more capable women in this field. There can be a discussion panel/ section where challenges women face in the industry can be discussed and solutions can be provided. We can also talk about more people who have shown support for women in Tech. This will give away to accept them in this industry in a broader perspective.
You can approach Saima and get in touch with her via the following links: