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'Flexibility in ICT jobs suits women'

  • Published at 09:54 pm April 26th, 2017
  • Last updated at 01:54 am April 27th, 2017
'Flexibility in ICT jobs suits women'
Jobs in information technology are male-dominated, but women can and should enter this industry because of the potential and the flexibility, industry leaders say. Ahead of the International Girls in ICT Day on Thursday, this correspondent spoke to three top entrepreneurs and professionals in the Bangladeshi software and IT industry who shared their stories of struggle and success. “Considering the nature of the job and the flexibility, more women should come into this industry,” said Farhana A Rahman, the vice-president of Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services (BASIS). Women traditionally have more responsibilities at home and people working in IT can have that flexibility if needed, she said. “Women who want to give more time to their families, women who want to be entrepreneurs – they should come into the IT industry. It has a huge potential,” said Farhana, the founder CEO of UY Systems Limited, a leading software firm. The International Girls in ICT Day, launched in 2014 by International Telecommunication Union (ITU), is celebrated in over 150 countries around the world. The day aims at celebrating girls and young women in ICT and encourages them to pursue studies and careers in the technology sector through training in coding, development of mobile applications and IT. [caption id="attachment_60190" align="alignleft" width="205"]There are now two female Bangladeshi programmers in Google, Sadia Nahreen (in photo) and Farhana Ashraf, both graduates of Buet's Computer Science and Engineering department Courtesy: Sadia Nahreen There are now two female Bangladeshi programmers in Google, Sadia Nahreen (in photo) and Farhana Ashraf, both graduates of Buet's Computer Science and Engineering department Courtesy: Sadia Nahreen[/caption] ITU launched the day in Senegal with the help of its government, Unesco and Google. Senegal has made significant strides in bringing women into IT through training, mentoring and networking. In Bangladesh context, working in the ICT sector is a challenge, especially for women. Nevertheless, there are many successful women in the industry who have faced the odds and risen to the top. Luna Shamsuddoha, founder and chairman of Dohatec New Media, is one of such pioneer entrepreneurs in the ICT sector. Talking to the Dhaka Tribune, Luna described how Dohatec faced massive challenges at the initial stages. “There was little skilled manpower in the IT industry, the internet connectivity was poor and the total eco-system was absent,” she said. Starting in 1992 with a core team of engineering academics and professionals, Luna rapidly led the firm to become one of the biggest companies producing quality software operating out of Bangladesh. Now Dohatec provides software solutions to institutions, government agencies and corporations in USA, Canada, Germany, Switzerland. The World Bank, World Health Organisation, US Postal Service and Bangladesh government are among her clients. [caption id="attachment_60139" align="aligncenter" width="519"]Industry leaders feel that social challenges are the main barriers for women in IT Dhaka Tribune Industry leaders feel that social challenges are the main barriers for women in IT Dhaka Tribune[/caption] “Social challenges are the main barrier for women in IT,” Luna said. “But these challenges are everywhere, and we will have to face them and overcome them with confidence.” “My entrance in ICT sector was not easy task at all 12 years ago,” UY Systems CEO Farhana said. “At that time the awareness level in the industry was unsatisfactory. No one believes a woman can be an entrepreneur and they could not take me seriously. Initially, it was a tough job to get any work order,” she reminisced. Another problem UY Systems faced as a tech start-up was that financial institutions were not interested to sanction loans in favour of IT companies, a problem that still persists today. “Primarily, my friends who live in the USA, inspired and connected me with IT-based work. As a student I was involved with research work and I enjoyed it. Later I realised that there is a massive scope for creative work in the IT sector,” she said. Rezwana Khan, director and COO of Star Computer Systems Limited, said 13 years ago when she started her career as an entrepreneur, there were very few women in this industry. She refuses to believe that the problems facing an aspiring IT professional are different for men and women. “I faced the same problems that men also face. I never thought about the gender issue and tackled all challenges as a professional,” said Rezwana. Success in ICT requires being target-driven and haviong long-term goals, she said. “If after training in IT for five years, a woman leaves her job, it is ultimately negative for her. A woman should have a long-term plan, otherwise no one can succeed,” added Rezwana. But she too, was critical of the country's financial support system. “Finance is a big challenge for us. The existing loan systems in Bangladesh are not favourable to any entrepreneur,” she said.
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