Thursday, October 16, 2008

Introducing the new ACM-W Council

ACM's Committee on Women in Computing has now been raised to a Council in the ACM organizational structure. Our new name is the ACM-W Council, and our charter states: "The ACM-W Council (AWC) will be chartered for the purpose of creating awareness of, interest in, and the need for elevating the issue of gender diversity within ACM as well as externally." The first meeting of the ACM-W council was held in Keystone Colorado on October 3 at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Using Technology to Create an Economic Powerhouse
Ambassador: Jehan Ara, Pakistan

Women account for almost 50% of Pakistan’s potential workforce. However, their active/acknowledged participation in economic activities is quite low compared with other economies. Even though they participate dynamically in family, home, community or farm activities, this unpaid work is perceived as their social duty rather than an economic contribution. One of the main reasons for the low economic participation of women in the country could be limited socio-economic opportunities and socio-cultural values and traditions.

During the last ten years, many countries have developed ‘Women’s Enterprise Strategic Frameworks’ to provide a collaborative and long-term approach to the development of women’s enterprise and entrepreneurship. The long-term vision set out by these frameworks is to create an environment and culture that encourages more women to start and grow businesses.

A recent research study demonstrates that in Pakistan, women entrepreneurs’ full economic potential is not being realised. As in many developing countries, women entrepreneurs in Pakistan also suffer from the lack of access to, including control over, capital, land, business premises, information and appropriate technology, suitable markets, training and capacity building opportunities, production inputs, and assistance from government agencies. They lack sophisticated networking mechanisms and effective social capital, constituency building and advocacy.

The potential of ICT for stimulating economic growth, social development and political participation is recognized, but it is increasingly apparent that the benefits are unevenly distributed. Women are increasingly taking advantage of ICT in all spheres of life, thus confirming that ICT can be a tool to promote gender equality and enhance the economic, political and social empowerment of women. As women, it is our challenge to encourage the spread and use of this technology to a larger number of women, to choose what we use and in which way we will have our contributions valued in a properly egalitarian society, for the freedom to use technologies as we will. Not solely for contributing to the Knowledge Based Economy, but for participating in and creating an economy of our own choosing, in a life of our own choosing.

A lot of women in Pakistani cities go to University. They do better academically than a lot of the young men but unfortunately a very small number filter into the workforce.
I have long felt that this is because of a number of reasons – responsibilities for small children, ailing parents, security concerns, distance from work and socio-cultural restrictions. How, I asked myself, can I and women like me help to economically empower these women? Thus surfaced the idea of the Women’s Virtual Network which I am planning to launch by the end of this month.

The objective of WVN is to:
  • Open up a Virtual Networking space for the economic empowerment of Pakistani women through the development of rewarding online careers and remotely operated businesses.
  • To benefit organizations and employers by making available talent, skills, concepts and specialized knowledge that would otherwise be inaccessible to them.
  • To bring women associations and educated women, both entrepreneurial and workers, into mainstream business activities through networking and providing access to information such as market opportunities, business and career advice and exchange of innovative ideas through an Online Virtual Networking space.
  • To create online communities to encourage networking and sharing of resources by women in different professions.
The project will connect:
  1. Educated women with companies that have jobs that can be outsourced
  2. There are already a dozen or more women who have registered as Online mentors and will provide guidance to these women in the selection of their careers or the formation of their businesses
  3. Online communities of women in health, in education, in science and engineering, in education, in media who can share resources and knowledge.
  4. A free online marketplace for women to showcase and market their products and service hence achieving an outreach to areas way beyond their immediate vicinities.

I am hoping that this Women’s Virtual Network will evolve and grow with the needs of the women who register on it. It is for me a Social Entrepreneurship that I hope to make self sustaining. Wish me luck.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Elaine Weyuker Accepts 2008 Anita Borg Technical Leadership Award

Congratulations to our co-Chair, Elaine Weyuker on becoming the winner of the 2008 Anita Borg Technical Leadership Award! The Anita Borg Technical Leadership Award is given to a woman who has inspired the women’s technology community through outstanding technological and social contributions. This year’s winner, AT&T Fellow Elaine Weyuker, has had a career of firsts: She was the first woman to receive a doctorate in computer science from Rutgers University; the first female faculty member at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences at NYU; and is the only female AT&T Fellow. A leader in the software-engineering research community, Dr. Weyuker specializes in software testing, reliability assessment, metrics and measurement, and empirical studies; and is a fellow of both ACM and IEEE, and a member of the US National Academy of Engineering. The Anita Borg Technical Leadership Award is underwritten by Cisco.