Why we need more women in IT industry in Bangladesh

Dhaka,  Thu,  24 August 2017
Published : 14 Jun 2017, 21:01:36

Why we need more women in IT industry in Bangladesh

Farzana Afrin Tisha

Women in the labour force in Bangladesh have been at the forefront for the past couple of years which has brought the successful economic growth in recent times. Many of these women in Bangladesh's workforce are involved in the readymade garments (RMG) sector, our country's flagship export-oriented industry. World Bank (WB) says it will grow from 34 to 82 per cent over the next decade, adding 1.8 per cent to Bangladesh's GDP.  Bangladesh is ahead of India if considered the women participation in the labour force, where women account for 27 per cent of the total labour force, and Pakistan, whose female labour participation rate is 25 per cent. Surprisingly, Nepal has the highest female labour participation rate of 80 per cent, according to the WB. Now when it comes to the information technology (IT) sector, women's participation in Bangladesh is lower than the expectation, compared to  other countries in South-East Asia. Till today women entrepreneurs of Singapore has the amplified presence in tech and entrepreneurship in Southeast Asia. It has been observed over time that Singapore has been a fantastic place for entrepreneurs for the government grants, co-working spaces and the international investors, still, something is holding women back from putting themselves forward in a male-dominated space like tech in Singapore as well. So, in comparison with the other Southeast Asian countries Bangladesh is lagging quite far behind in terms of women's participation in information technology.

Information technology industry is such an industry which requires educated, smart and intelligent women who would be able to contribute to our economy ten times more than the women in RMG sector. Thus, to get a sustainable economic growth, to break gender stereotypes in the tech industry and to lessen the significant pay gap between ‘men and women’ more women have to join the tech industry. One statistics shows our productivity in ICT is stuck at 6.7 per cent because we are failing to incorporate more women in this sector. At present, 90 universities in Bangladesh offer computer science engineering and ICT degrees, and there are approximately 38,000 students who are already enrolled in these courses, but among these 38,000 only 9,500 of them are women. On top of that, less than  one per cent of these female graduates are interested in a career in the ICT industry.  Our women are missing from everywhere, and this needs to change.

Interestingly, half of the users of technology products and websites are women. Hence, it is very important to engage more women in tech companies not only in staff positions but also in leadership roles to see this sector boom in a different dimension by designing products and services specially for women. Women are also the large portion of the population who are likely to buy more technology products and services. So, dedicated products and services for this group will definitely create a whole different market. Moreover, IT has scopes for high paying jobs which will drive this large workforce to earn more money if they are more interested in this industry. Also, IT has such job flexibility where it is possible for one to work remotely even from one's home sometimes, which is very convenient for women.

After seeing such advantages the question obviously comes why there are not still enough women in IT industry. Well, the reasons are most of the people find the tech industry very gender-biased and women have a misconception about IT industry that it is not that interesting when it comes to coding, while there are more things in IT jobs apart from coding. This stereotypical mindset needs to be changed.

Fortunately, Bangladesh Women in Technology (BWIT) is there to inspire more participation of women in the tech industry. The organisation is dedicated to mobilise women involvement in all levels of the technology industry and to create a wide range of professional development and networking opportunities for growth of its constituents and to make a meaningful contribution to the growth of Bangladesh. This organisation has also been helping women tech professionals and entrepreneurs of Bangladesh to promote their work and to get their work recognised nationwide. They have also been encouraging women in Bangladesh to embrace career in technology and empower these women to grow, by providing technology awareness as well as education, leadership development, networking opportunities and mentoring.

For Bangladesh to realise the growth potential of the tech industry, it is crucial to engage girls and young women while they are still in school, offering them specific technology training plus providing access to financing for women tech entrepreneurs in the society. Policymakers should also have to take actions to spur the IT industry by ensuring gender equality and inclusive working environments to make the sector more attractive to women. Social awareness campaigns can also help to position the IT industry as a great field of work for women due to its flexibility and variety of jobs. As more countries are embracing knowledge-based economy these days, information and communication technology would play a key role in the development of the economy of the future developed countries. Therefore, to make a mark in the tech industry and for sustainable economic growth increasing representation and participation of women entrepreneurs and IT professionals are much needed.

The writer is working as Business Development Manager for Brain

Station 23 Limited,

a  software development

company in Bangladesh,  

Editor : A.H.M Moazzem Hossain
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