Technological advancements have been undergoing in Bangladesh over the last few years attracting more local youth to the IT sector. Academic degrees in computer science or computer engineering are now covered along with extra qualifications in IT skills like web design, program coding, graphics design etc. are considered highly desirable for the current tech job market in Bangladesh. With the rise of popularity of tech in Bangladesh, it can be seen that more males are coming forward in the arena whereas Bangladesh still lacks necessary female force in regards to technological contribution that can take the country further forward.
This has led to Founders Institute holding an event titled Startup 101: Women in Technology at Newscred office in Banani, Dhaka on 25th August 2015. The 2.5 hours long event tried its best to explore the reasons and barriers that has been holding women back to advance in the field of technology compared to men and what can be done to support more women in the field.
The keynote speakers were Ivy Russell and Shahana Siddiqui, who developed Bangladesh’s first ever online community dedicated to women, Maya.com. Both of them shared their experiences of how they came up with Maya in the first place. Shahana said, “Ivy and I are very good friends, we fought with each other but still managed to build Maya. We used to meet in cafes and in temporary places to discuss ideas and gradually came up with Maya.”
Ivy added, “Making Maya was a learning experience for both of us that has enriched our lives. Doing this, we could manage to involve more women voices in the Bangladeshi online community. I and Shahana are extremely lucky because we had family support regarding the work we did.”
Shahana said, “Just like it is said there is a woman behind every successful man, the opposite is true for women, that there is a man behind every successful woman, be it the father, brother, husband or son. Without support from men in the society, women cannot progress further whether in the tech field or in any other field.”
Other speakers included Samira Himika, founder and managing director of Dreamer, Leonika Hannan, HR Head of Newscred, Farwah Tasnim, Head of Partnership of Kaymu and Alyssa Ransbury, Business Development Manager of Bikroy.
Leonika went on to say how she has worked hard in her previous jobs where sometimes she had to work till 2 am and her husband would come to pick her up. Farwah told her experience that she had no idea about tech in the first place and still managed to end up working in an online e-commerce website where she had to learn everything on her own.
Alyssa Ransbury added that her working hours are crazy, she works as hard and as long as her male colleagues, sure it is tiring for her but she manages everything in the end. Samira said, women are strong although the society perceives them as weak, women can do work alongside men, all they need is empathy and valuation from everybody, only then women will be motivated to strive for more and come up with more new stuff in the Bangladeshi tech scene.
The audience also took part in the discussion, they came up with the top 5 reasons about what is holding back women in the tech scene. Some of the barriers included lack of family support, lack of self-confidence, not willing to come out of one’s own comfort zone, lack of access to technology, women discriminating and underestimating themselves and negative social perception that women cannot be “techy”.
To conclude the event, a panel discussion was arranged with all the speakers discussing about the barriers women face to come forward in the technological field where the audience actively gave in their inputs. Everybody agreed upon on creating a women-friendly work environment with extra maternal leave and transport facilities, being more understanding towards the tech work that women do where longer working hours are often demanded and that women need to come out of their comfort zone to show what they can do for which their parents and family can be proud of.