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Cover image for Women Who Code: Educative's journey to empower women in tech
Educative

Women Who Code: Educative's journey to empower women in tech

amandaeducative profile image Amanda Fawcett Originally published at educative.io ・8 min read

Women represent less than 14% of the tech industry workforce in Pakistan, but Educative.io has embarked on a journey to hire dozens of highly capable and educated women to build technical courses as part of their Content and Dev-Advocate teams.

At Educative, we’ve worked with and for women to adjust our hiring process and corporate environment. We hope to accommodate the cultural norms of Pakistan and encourage women to join our dynamic teams of developers and leaders.

Let’s walk through some of the intentional ways that we have been empowering our female employees in Pakistan.


Opportunities for all

For Educative, it’s essential that women build and manage our company. The technology industry in Pakistan (and worldwide) still battles gender bias, and many women find it more challenging to receive the same training and opportunities as their male peers. Sidra Basharat, Educative’s Developer Advocate Manager, told us that her journey in the tech world has not been easy.

“There was a lot of struggle coming from a family where women do not have careers. I am the only woman in my family, and perhaps the second in the whole extended family, who has been working for 12 years”.

Sidra Basharat

Many women in Pakistan are well-educated but struggle to maintain careers in the tech industry. That’s why we create opportunities for women in Pakistan to apply their education in a professional space. For Sidra, a career in Computer Science was always her motivation and end-goal.

“I had a strong sense of responsibility to be able to support myself and be productive. It’s been almost 2 decades in this field, and there is no looking back”.

One of Educative’s Developer Advocates in Pakistan, Mishaal Kazmi, told us that she has been looking forward to her career ever since she was in school. She was inspired by other self-made women and eventually found her passion for Computer Science.

“It was an area that effortlessly encompassed all my interests and where I believe one could easily make an impact and have fun with creativity while doing so. All of which my job at Educative so accurately and conveniently captures as well.”

Mishaal Kazmi

Educative helps fight against gender biases in the industry by opening their tech and leadership positions to all. Mishaal explained to us that Educative addresses some of these cultural issues of Pakistan by valuing everyone’s work equally.

“There is no preference of men over women, and performance is judged and rewarded to both fairly in terms of merit. Further, the team itself is managed and run by amazing women. Our HR department head is also a woman. All team members and managers make sure that women are provided a safe and comfortable environment to work in. This kind of culture may not be found in every workplace and is truly a blessing.”

Mehwish Salahuddin, Educative’s HR and Office Manager in Pakistan, believes that Educative’s practices of equality are essential to its growth. She has worked hard to develop practices of equality and make culturally-sensitive roles that attract female employees. She is proud to be a leader that respects both the personal identities of women and their talents.

“Equality in the workspace shouldn’t be an exception; it should be the standard. That’s non-negotiable for me as a leader. Women do face unique difficulties at work, and I want to do all I can to overcome those gaps. I think at Educative, we’ve attracted so many female employees because they don’t have to worry about competing to be valued or heard.”

Mehwish Salahuddin

Educative has made female leadership a priority with the hopes of opening more doors for female employees. The Developer Advocate and Content teams in Pakistan are led by women, so the workspace is more attuned to their concerns and voices. Mishaal told us that female leadership has helped her team to feel empowered at work.

“At times, if any female here may face any hesitation communicating any blocker at work, the manager herself would make sure every voice in her team is heard and the problem has met a solution.”

Mishaal Kazmi

Female leadership encourages more capable women to work in tech spaces, and it empowers them along the way through a standard of support in the challenging environment. Cecilia Cayetano, COO, told me,

“Our CEO made a very concerted effort to hire a female COO to start the cycle of attracting women into the company. We source female and underrepresented minority authors as much as we can. For our published authors, we also provide guidance on how they can highlight their authorship on LinkedIn and their performance evaluation so they can take credit for this great achievement and increase their profile.”

Cecilia Cayetano

It’s important to uplift people according to their needs, and we’ve seen how female leadership, career guidance, and a standard of equal opportunity all help to make that happen.


An adaptive hiring process

Educative has developed some culturally-specific ways to encourage women to interview for tech positions. It’s unfortunate, but studies show that the interview process can be more challenging for female applicants. This is even more true in Pakistan where the culture operates within a more traditional family structure. This means that families are more involved in individual decisions.

That’s why Educative has welcomed families into the recruitment and hiring process. For example, families are invited to Educative’s in-house interviews so that family members can feel comfortable with the company. Families are also welcome to meet with Educative’s leadership team in Pakistan or tour the office before making any commitments to the company.

We want to work within the unique cultural perspectives of others, so we feel that this flexibility is an important part of reaching talented candidates. It helps everyone involved feel more comfortable and respected in the process.

One of Educative’s Developer Advocates explained that our Head of Technology, Khayyam Hashmi, was very kind and helpful to her when she was undergoing the hiring process. Because he was so welcoming to her family, they were more comfortable with the workspace and company.

We believe that this flexibility is a thoughtful and empowering way to manage a company. We understand that a person is more than their technical skills. We are also embedded in our cultures, in our families, in our lives, so these things should be considered when we hire someone onto a team.


Reliable yet flexible hours

Educative has also done some thinking about how to address the concerns of our female employees in Pakistan regarding time commitment and transportation. Sidra explained that women in Pakistan prefer not to work late, either for safety concerns or responsibilities at home. That’s why the Developer Advocate role has consistent hours. Our Developer Advocates know when they are expected to work to minimize unexpected responsibilities that get in the way of their personal lives and duties. This respects the lives of our female Developer Advocates and the work they do for the company.

Similarly, the hours of the Developer Advocate role are quite flexible when it comes to working from home. Sidra explained that many women in Pakistan face issues with transportation. She told us that “women are generally dependent on male family members and house support for transport,” so if unexpected events come up, it can be hard to get to the office.

On top of that concern, harassment is common for women who use public transportation in Pakistan. Educative doesn’t want our employees to feel unsafe just trying to get to work, so Developer Advocates can work from home as long as they communicate with their team and meet their productivity goals.

For Mishaal, this flexibility is really important to her, and it also helps her to feel more creative and empowered while at work.

“Our managers and supervisors give us the flexibility and trust to set our own timelines for tasks, giving us a sense of autonomy, independence, and self-confidence. This also removes the sense of pressure in the workplace when deadlines are otherwise unrealistically imposed on the worker”.

Mishaal Kazmi

On top of that, Developer Advocates have no responsibility over the live site. If the live site crashes, there are unexpected tasks that come up, late-night phone calls and/or after-hours trips to the office. These tasks may conflict with personal comfort levels, domestic responsibilities, or cultural norms. It’s not empowering to give some women tasks that make them uncomfortable, so we’ve restructured the roles to be more flexible and accommodating.


An Empowering Environment

Working in the tech industry can be more challenging for women. So, it’s also important to create a space where people feel appreciated. A safe and empowering work environment isn’t just about policies. Mishaal told us that this empowering environment is one of the main ways that Educative fits with her lifestyle.

“Educative has an extremely encouraging environment and inculcates a sense of teamwork and an overall helpful attitude amongst teammates. We have ‘Thank You Thursdays’ every week. In addition, we have daily standups to keep us up to date regarding each other’s progress; support is shown by all colleagues in case of a blocker, by offering help in any way possible”.

Sidra also explained that a healthy environment makes it easier for her to further a career in the tech industry.

“The dynamic environment, the guidance and support that I have from my leadership, [and] the great team all give me so much motivation to perform better."

Sidra Basharat


Continued Education

Continued education is quite important for people working in the fast-moving tech industry. That’s why Educative seeks ways to encourage all of our employees to keep learning and growing. The empowerment of women in the tech industry means that they need the same access to knowledge and technology, even after landing careers.

Mishaal explained that the company focuses a lot on education and that generally helps to build an empowering, future-oriented culture.

“Educative provides full freedom for creativity and experimentation to employees with what they want to learn for themselves in their careers. We design technical courses for developers, and this gives us the chance to learn new technologies every day, and stay in touch with the ever-evolving domain of Computer Science.”

Similarly, Shiza Ali, a former Developer Advocate with Educative, explained that she further developed her writing and teaching abilities at Educative, and this empowered her as a woman in the tech industry.

“Through Computer Science, I want to invent, teach, and inspire. Being a Developer Advocate at Educative, I had the opportunity to learn new concepts that I then taught to a million others in the form of courses”.

Even the flexibility of an online platform itself is a form of empowerment. The site is accessible for anyone with an Internet connection, so women all around the world are able to learn from their homes. Mishaal told us how that meets a unique need for women in Pakistan.

“This is especially beneficial for women in Pakistan and India, as some may find it difficult to access school education and learn to code due to various cultural, demographic, or religious reasons”.


An Ongoing Mission

Educative’s flexible hours, policies, and corporate culture of support are all part of our ongoing journey to empower the women of Pakistan in the tech industry. It’s important to recognize and accommodate cultural needs. After all, these norms shape the lives of us all, inside and outside the office.

“At Educative, we’re thrilled to be part of the movement to empower women in Pakistan’s tech industry. Technology will shape the future of our world. If women aren’t involved in those innovations and decisions, we all miss out.”

Mehwish Salahuddin

On a larger scale, practices that empower women through their cultural identities also redefine the rigid corporate norms of the past that disproportionately limit women. In the long run, we hope to see a world where women are equally involved in the tech industry. This requires a collaborative world that listens to the cultural needs of others. Until that time, Educative is thrilled to continue empowering the women of Pakistan through its growing scope of influence.

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