In this latest series of articles, we are publishing interviews of some incredible women who are part of the tech industry or the broader STEM fields.
In these interviews, you will find women working on solving real-world problems, breaking stereotypes and creating the next big impact on the industry. This series of interviews shows that even with the lowest rate of women participation in the labor market in Pakistan, there are still lots of smart women who are creating and using technology to work wonders.
Today, we are featuring Maria Umar. Read on to know more about her work and get inspired.
Tell us a little about yourself, your background, your education, and your work.
What do I tell you about myself you don’t already know? There is the boring Google-search answer of how I am a 40-year-old Pushtun woman with a Master’s degree in English Literature who was fired from her teaching job because … here is little MCQ for you:
a) I was bad at my job
b) Developed Ebola and had to be quarantined
c) Got pregnant
A isn’t too far from the truth but it was C. *Applause if you guessed correctly. So, I said the hell with this cruel world and started my own business.
HELLO FROM THE OTHER SIDE
TAKE YOUR STUPID JOB AND DIE
Women’s Digital League (WDL) is what it’s called and started the whole digital freelancing conversation back when not many knew what it meant.
What are your future plans/aspirations? What impact it will have on the community/society/your team/your project?
I am just happy putting one foot in front of the other. No idea what’s going to happen next or what to expect. The only thing certain is that when you have your heart in the right place unexpected things happen ALL THE TIME. They may not all be good things but they keep things exciting. One thing I do want to keep doing is not staying silent. I see something I like, I speak up. I see something I don’t like, I will stay quiet. But I see something unfair and unjust, you can bet your heart I will make a noise. The impact this behavior has can be seen in 2 ways. One, I become a pariah and everyone distances themselves because no one likes troublemakers. Two, it makes people think twice before they commit any injustice and they try harder to make sure they fix the wrongs of the past because if they don’t one crazy woman will always be there to call foul. Long term, the women and men that are silent now will thank me in their hearts if not openly thanks to inflated egos and all.
Please brag about your career accomplishments, what are the things you are really proud of?
I love to brag hence why I’d say, go Google me. *hairflip
What has been your best education/career decision and why?
Get a Master’s degree even if it’s a subject I am not interested in and from a terrible college because in the now legendary words of a politician, “Degree tu degree hoti hai”. When people ask for 16 years of education, I have it. Where I got it from; how much I scored; what discipline I got it in; honestly no one cares. Have worked with top-notch organizations and no one has ever asked me for any academic transcripts.
What’re the best lessons you’ve learned?
If you want to bring a change, stop looking at others and do your little bit. People will always look after their own self-interest. A very few will throw all caution to the wind and join you and it’s those few that matter. If you are dazzled by the glam of Twitter fights (yes, there are some who think that’s fame “Badnaam jo hon get u kia naam na ho ga”) and hence why you jump in, STAY OUT. You have to really believe in a cause to take on the baton of championing it. The world owes you nothing – never forget that.
Which woman inspires you and why?
There are so many. It’s the everyday stories of resilience, of crying all night and then showing up to work the next day as nothing happened; of nurturing little humans while she is drained herself; of throwing back her head and laughing when she has every reason to break down. I see them every day and they keep uplifting me.
Do you think Pakistan has changed as a society, in terms of accepting career-oriented women? What needs to change to help more women come forward?
Not at all. Still same old. “Beta, parh likh k doctor banna, 4 GPA lena, aur phir us taleem ko jahez mein le ja k AI ko use kar k achay achay khanay banana.” All rubbish. We are still an archaic society with just a spattering of people that actually accept a woman’s role to be
What will be the biggest challenge for the generation of women behind you?
Unless we, the generation in the now and here, take off the self-imposed gag order on speaking up against discriminatory behavior the generation after us will still be crying over equal pay and representation and lack of leadership roles. I hope instead they have achieved all that and are faced with problems like how to get the other half’s boss give him a 6-month work-from-home permission so she can go on her mission to Mars without worrying about the kids.
If you could change one thing about the tech industry/business, what would it be?
I’d love for people to stop seeing tech as IT only and also stop with setting up of e-commerce websites (notice how I said websites and not businesses) and presenting them as these big glamazons of what cutting-edge tech could do. That’s sooooooo 2000.
How can WomenInTechPK help you and other women?
Community building. We need a more focused approach towards doing that. What do the women in tech want? Do they even know what they should want? Are they aware of the things they could ask for? WITPK needs to ask the right questions to get women in tech to start thinking for themselves and not only identify their problems but also suggest their own solutions.
You can follow Maria Umar using her profiles below, and please do not hesitate in hiring her for your next project.
ProWomen Profile: https://www.womenintechpk.com/maria-umar-incredible-womenintechpk/