The British Council on Thursday hosted a panel discussion, titled ‘Women in Science’, and discussed their journey in the field and factors that inhibited further progress.
The panellists included Dr Hina Siddiqui from the HEJ Research Institute, Karachi University, Dr Khadija Qureshi from the Chemical Department, Mehran University of Engineering and Technology, and Dr Darakhshan Jabeen Haleem from the Karachi University.
The panellists were of the opinion that given Pakistan’s socio-cultural complexion, young girls were seldom encouraged to pursue courses in science and mathematics, subjects which were imprudently considered more suitable for boys.
According to the British Council’s report on understanding female participation in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) subjects in Pakistan at the higher school level, 46 percent of girls and 72 percent of boys were enrolled in at least one STEM subject. At the university level, it was 26 percent for women and 51 percent for the males.
Referring to the report, Dr Maryam Rab, Director, Research and Monitoring Unit of the British Council, said the report clearly reflected that while pursuing any subject, it was imperative to remember that the passion of the students for a subject was of prime importance.
It was the responsibility of the senior colleagues, teachers and parents to serve as role models. “We need to nurture the appetite of young girls for science and make science interesting to them,” said Dr Rab.
Dr Khadija Qureshi from the Mehran University of Engineering and Technology, Jamshoro, said there were only 15 percent girls in their programme.
She also narrated how she had to fight an uphill struggle to be made the head of the department as a junior man was being put on the post just because of the gender bias. Girls, she said, should be allowed apprenticeship in the industry.
Dr Darakhshan from the Karachi University said that there were more women in biological sciences. She said that most women did not opt for industry. “There should be well developed research departments to serve as inducement for women to come into the industry.” The panellists also opined that there was no enabling environment as regards families, particularly since decisions were taken mostly by the menfolk.