Issues and Challenges

How Women Can Use Digital Platforms to Flourish in Professional Life

“Extra usage of digital platforms may overstate the importance of having a digital presence, but leveraging it creates sustainable prospects for individuals and society. Everyone must utilize their power to make positive actions and their impact through the use of digital media.”

Pakistan finds itself in the middle of a digital and technological revolution, changing the ways of professional life, especially for women, with more challenges as well as opportunities. Women make up almost half of the Pakistan’s population, but women’s participation in the workplace is comparatively low in the region for several reasons. About 22.6% of women are in the workplace, and even fewer are in managerial positions, 4.9% as per World Economic Forum’s Report on Global Gender Gap. It is essential for women to participate in digitalization as it is impossible for a country to flourish without equal participation and diversity in workplace. Digital transformation is an opportunity for women to fulfill productive roles at all levels by the adaptability of skills. They can enhance their digital outlook by utilizing digital platforms of ICT such as social media platforms and microblogging websites, technological awareness and women-led businesses. 
Digital platforms include social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. In today’s world, women consider technology and digital platforms to be a pathway for their future success. They participate in economic uplift through social media in the form of cost-effective businesses, and various freelancing websites, etc.
Women always play a role in social change and are constantly adapting to changes in our environment. In the digital age, women are empowered with new technologies, digital tools and knowledge essential to thrive in this new era. Pakistan Digital Policy of 2018 by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of Pakistan, also emphasizes ICT’s usage for women empowerment as a way forward for Pakistan towards sustainable development goals (SDGs) fulfillment through gender equality and the role of women in the economic growth of the country. In this regard, Pakistan is progressively promoting the use of ICT among women and girls, initiating training programs in digital media skills so that they have the opportunity to earn online. Such programs include the installation of computer labs in government schools/colleges to train women and girls in computing skills (computing, coding, and communication), incubation centers in public academic institutions to promote entrepreneurship, and (Free-online training Program) that is lowering the barriers for women towards techno-digital adoption. All these initiatives unlock Pakistan’s digital potential for girls and women empowerment programs.  
The use of technology and digital media is significant for earning, future opportunities and employment. Therefore, women need to overcome the challenges by availing opportunities that government and private institutions provide. Being an enthusiastic woman, I am always seeking opportunities that enhance my professional outlook, and the initiatives mentioned above by the government empowered me by exposing me to new discourses. 
Various women in Pakistan are setting examples about the influence of digital platforms. They symbolize social change and impact the community by adopting technology in women-led businesses and startups. Following are some of the most influential women working on digital platforms in Pakistan.
Tehmina A Chaudhry 
Tehmina A Chaudhry is the founder of Connected Women Pakistan and co-founder, of INSTA Foods Industries (Pvt) Ltd. Her project aims to highlight rising Pakistani women who are not only successful in their field of work, but also nurturing notions of women empowerment by lifting others up. She says: “Digital platforms play a very important role for the women to develop their marketable skills, participation in informed decision-making, promotion of themselves as entrepreneurs or have a tribe of their own where they can interact without being judged. Women need technology to participate in the modern world as equals.”
Ramma Cheema 
Ramma Cheema is currently working as an anchor and she is also Beti's founder. Her NGO is a social impact enterprise that works towards social and economic boost, inclusivity of the girl child and woman as integral stakeholders in Pakistan. She commented on digital platforms and their empowering role in women’s lives: “Women and young girls convert the digital media ecosystem in several ways. We have seen that people have started e-commerce businesses on Instagram and Facebook to earn money. Beti, run by my team and me, aims to empower and give platforms to women and young girls so that their inspirational stories are highlighted. It serves as an advocacy platform that works to ensure financial equality and inclusion for young girls.”
Jehan Ara
Jehan Ara was the former president of [email protected], between 2019-2020, and is CEO Katalyst Labs. She has been part of the technology sector in Pakistan since the mid-90s. She shares her life experience in the following words: “I have reached out to venture capitalists and garnered their interest in Pakistan’s startup ecosystem. A number of people and organizations have reached out to me on LinkedIn and involved me in discourse on subjects that are of mutual interest. Now, I rely almost totally on LinkedIn as my primary social media platform to build my network.”

Nida Siddiqui
Nida Siddiqui is a senior e-commerce professional, who in a short period of time ascended the heights of career hierarchy. From working at a start-up to switching to a leading brand, structuring and developing the operational procedures for e-business, Nida Siddiqui has dabbled in all the e-commerce modules. She emphasizes the role of digital platforms in professional growth saying: “If anything, the Covid era has taught us the importance of digitalization. Now, accessibility to social or e-commerce platforms is just a tap away. Be it a small and mid-size enterprise (SME) or a large corporation, the use of Magento, Shopify, or Woo-commerce for its website along with the utilization of social platforms such as Facebook, Google, YouTube and Instagram for both awareness and performance marketing, Fintech and integration of Q-commerce channels through digital apps is the only way forward for businesses to reap optimal results in the long term.”
Zeenat Anjum  Mentoring the freelancer community, Zeenat Anjum formed her own platform for credible freelancers and beginners to polish their skills and experiences. She also has a startup called Digiwrite, a registered organization, whose vision extends to facilitating women in entering the freelancing or entrepreneurship domain. Amidst Covid-19, she also extended her services to job creation, training and creating a financially sustainable ecosystem for freelancers. According to her: “Social Media is getting stronger day by day. If we do not realize its potential, then it will be too late. The beauty of social media lies in its correct use, so that you are able to create an impact on the lives of people. Social media has given me the opportunity to not only network but also add value to the lives of the people that I am connected with. Accountability is the key here that can help you or anyone else use social media for the better.”
All these women create a game-changing pattern for us. They are trying to create awareness among public that digital platforms are crucial for today’s interconnected world. With a single click, a digital profile building makes a woman capable enough to become self-reliant through her digital presence.  
Getting Ahead in the Digital Workplace: Tips for Professional Women
Digitalization creates enormous opportunities for women, equal participation in global competition, online businesses and free online space to target billions of people worldwide. Social media has now become the agent of social change in our society by diminishing gender parity. There are many incentives for emerging empowered women to use digital platforms more effectively through networking and profile development. Therefore, women must be proactive, use digital platforms in an effective manner through networking and profile development. They must be capable of taking on-board some of the responsibilities independently.
Some of the tips from my own experiences that may be helpful for women professionally are:
Move Out of Your Comfort Zone
Moving outside your comfort zone is essential to expand your skills and for personal development in digital world.
Be Open to Change
During your career journey, be open to new places, change job roles to gain experience, avail new projects and challenges that eventually make you strong in an organization.
New Learning
Technology also helps by giving women the opportunity to upskill their capabilities through e-learning modules and courses.
Update your Digital Professional Profile
Start working on your digital presence by being active on your social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, freelancing and microblogging websites. 
Social Networking
Social media provides you platforms to connect with people and share experiences that enhance your intellectual social networking. It is significant in benefiting you in your career development, representing organizations around the globe and your organization’s culture that motivates others. LinkedIn and Facebook are key tools to connect digitally. 
Be Ready to Take Risks
Women should be confident in their decision-making leadership abilities, and be optimistic about taking risks in their professional career.
Be Positive and keep moving forward
Presently, because of the external global shifts in employment regardless of gender parity and opportunities, women must choose science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) fields that offer numerous job opportunities. Companies must foster a learning culture and encourage women toward STEM, AI and management courses. 
Women need to understand that upgrading their skillset is a key to staying ahead in the digital age. Organizations should also identify where we have made progress, tackle challenges to continue closing the hiring gap and provide more opportunities for women. HH

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