Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Pakistani Woman Engineer Gets Grace Hopper Award

Dr. Durdana Habib, senior faculty member at the School of Electrical Engineering, National University of Computer and Emerging Sciences, Islamabad, Pakistan is the recipient of the prestigious Grace Hopper ABIE Award for 2014 from Anita Borg Institute in the United States.

The award is named after Grace Murray Hopper (1906-1992) who was an American computer scientist and United States Navy rear admiral. She was one of the first programmers of the Harvard Mark I computer, and developed the first ever compiler for a computer programming language.

A press release by the Institute says that Dr. Habib has "motivated female engineering students to take up engineering careers". It adds: "She participated as an active volunteer in Women in Technology, a Task Force of the Technology Resource Mobilization unit under the Ministry of Science & Technology, Pakistan. She has involved female faculty as well as professionals across public and private sector through the Women's Forum, Interactive talks and WIE sessions at IEEE student Congresses. She is a mentor of the Pakistan Women's Forum (PWF) and is currently the Chair of the WIE Affinity Group, IEEE, Islamabad Section."

Dr. Habib has worked at Communications Enabling Technologies where she led software development on System-On-Chip (SOCs) designs, according to the press release. Her team of many motivated female engineers developed one of world’s highest density media processor SOC designs and filed several US patents.

There were very few women in engineering when I attended NED Engineering College in 1970s.  Dr. Habib and her fellow women engineers have since served as role models to encourage girls to study engineering in Pakistan. The result is that a third of all students at NED University of Engineering and Technology are now female, according to a report by Inam Khwaja published in Karachi's Business Recorder newspaper.

As of 2012, the ratio of female-to-male enrollment in tertiary education in Pakistan is 95%, according to the World Bank. About 22% of adult women in Pakistan now work, up from 14% a decade ago. Women make up 4.6% of board members of Pakistani companies, a tad lower than the 4.7% average in emerging Asia, but higher than 1% in South Korea, 4.1% in India and Indonesia, and 4.2% in Malaysia, according to a February 2011 report on women in the boardrooms.

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Khalid K. said...

Great news, God bless her.
Thanks for sharing Riaz.

Oscar said...

She was my supervisor.

Riaz Haq said...

Shama Zehra is founder and CEO of newly-launched Aligned Independent Advisors, a boutique independent advisory firm on Wall Street. It’s still a male-dominated area of finance, just 13% of brokers and advisors are female but Zehra’s unlikely to be unfazed. As a glance at her career path proves – engineer, business-owner, pilot and banker –resisting convention comes pretty naturally.

As a teenager Shama Zehra started her first business, a clothing company with her mom and her sister from a rack in the corner of their apartment in Pakistan. Over time the trio outgrew the apartment and opened a small factory with six staff. This led to a flagship store, sales to the Pakistani equivalents of Macy’s and pop- up stores at five star hotels, which brought about lucrative exports.

Still, attitudes to women-owned businesses dragged out simple transactions, says Zehra. “Pakistan is a very male-dominated society so over there a man rules, so that was one of the biggest challenges,” she says. Even more difficult was negotiating constant security risks like thefts and curfews as well as electricity blackouts which meant the machines couldn’t run.

The trio sold Zehra’s, and after a stint as a pilot, Zehra got into finance. She built the number one wealth management business at Standard Chartered Bank in Pakistan before emigrating to the U.S to become one of the largest producers at Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley MS +1.24%.

“Once you have your own business you really understand how to treat every job. I’ve always treated every job that I’ve had like my own company or my own business and that really does change the dynamic…as an entrepreneur you’ve got to do everything to make it work.”

With her latest venture, Aligned Independent Advisors, Zehra says she’s building a firm that’s totally independent but has a human touch, something she thinks has been lacking.

“It’s easy to find smart people in finance but it’s difficult to find good hearted, helpful and sincere people,” she says.



Riaz Haq said...

On women engineers of Pakistan introducing girls to technical education