In this latest series of articles, we are publishing interviews of women who are working as a professional or a student in the technology sector. The objective is to highlight their work and contribution to the industry as well as to the community.
In these interviews, you will find women working in technology to solve real-world problems, to break stereotypes and to create the next big impact on the tech industry. This series of interviews shows that even with the lowest rate of women participation in the labor market in Pakistan, there are still lots of smart women who are creating and using technology to work wonders.
Today, we are featuring Hira Batool Rizvi. Read on to know more about her work and get inspired.
Tell us a little about yourself, your background, your education, and your work.
I am an engineer by profession and a problem solver by choice. I believe each of us is blessed with a unique ability to tackle and solve the many problems that our world is facing today.
In my humble attempt of playing my part, I started SheKab, which is Pakistan’s first-ever technology-based carpool service for women and girls, that has been successfully running in the country since Jan 2016. Shekab is a subscription-based carpooling service for women and children. It aims to transform how women travel in Pakistan. Prior to that, I had worked for a Microsoft Corporation Project as a Project Manager where I lead and implemented Pakistan’s first of its kind Employment and Entrepreneurship portal called Rozgar.work.
I have also had the privilege and opportunity to be an Acumen Fellow from Pakistan, as well as a Fulbright Scholar from Pakistan to the US, where I pursued my Masters of Science from Georgia Institute of Technology.
Moreover, I have grown SheKab from an idea to a startup employing more than 10 individuals. SheKab is operational in four cities and has given 100,000 rides to date.
What are your future plans/aspirations? What impact it will have on the community/society/your team/your project?
We are currently planning to take SheKab to other cities across Pakistan, so we are working day and night to make this plan a reality. At Shekab, we are connecting women who travel together. We imagine a world that is safe for women – a greener world with lesser cars & greater friendships, a world with equal opportunities for women, as for men. We believe in using technology to empower women so they can realize their true potential.
We are connecting women with trusted drivers willing to share their ride and earn along the way by driving at least 1 hour a day.
What has been your best education/career decision and why?
I was always inclined towards science and math during high school years, so I had decided very early on that I would be getting into a tech school after A’levels. Luckily, the school I went to in Islamabad, stressed very much on the importance of doing good and being socially responsible. However, the idea of privilege and the responsibility that comes with it, dawned upon me only after I chose to study in Pakistan, as opposed to heading out of Pakistan right after high school, as many of my friends did. Staying back in Pakistan and meeting people from all corners of the country in and out of university, was an absolute eye-opener for me. I realized I’d been in somewhat of a bubble in school and was quite oblivious to the problems that our country and people were facing. Our people were struggling with basic things, that everyone should have access to. In all the years that followed, I used my skill set to solve the real problems and this was the most important decision of my life.
What’re the best lessons you’ve learned?
The lessons I have learned is “with greater privilege, comes greater responsibility”. Also, if you are on a path to make a difference, you have to make a lot of personal sacrifices, hence being on this journey can be rather daunting. To pull through, you need a tribe and a group of people who can be your support system in this journey. Investing in these relationships and friendships can go a long way for entrepreneurs and change-makers to know that there are other crazy individuals like you, doing crazier things.
Which woman inspires you and why?
I’ve always been inspired by the success and the resilience of the creator of the designer bags brand, Kate Spade. In particular, from how she started something singlehandedly from scratch, knowing that a need for it existed in the market, to becoming the iconic accessories designer that she became was something I’m always fascinated with.
Do you think Pakistan has changed as a society, in terms of accepting career-oriented women?
For sure. I see it every day, our rider base is growing with women from various professions. We have more female drivers than when we started. However, we still have a long way to go.
What needs to change to help more women come forward?
For women to succeed, we need to work together as a society to change mindsets and become more accepting of women getting the same opportunities as men do. We can start making this change from home, where fathers and mothers enable their daughters to accomplish their dreams and realize their true potential. We also need significant changes in our educational sectors and workforce, making them more inclusive, fair and mindful of the needs of women and girls.
What will be the biggest challenge for the generation of women behind you?
I read a lot of dystopian fiction, so I’d rather not quote the many challenges laid out by Huxley and Orwell that directly affect women. However, having been a student of Science and Technology Policy, where a significant portion of our coursework was on the ethical use of technology, I fear the misuse of technological advances, social media in particular, to be a grave, if not the biggest challenge for upcoming generations.
If you could change one thing about the tech industry/business, what would it be?
Make it more inclusive.
How can WomenInTechPK help you and other women?
Keep doing what you’ve started. We seriously need a platform dedicated solely to women. So kudos to your team!
You can follow Hira Batool Rizvi using her profiles below, and please do not hesitate in hiring her for your next project.
SheKab is a subscription-based monthly carpool service for women and girls. We connect our registered female riders, with vetted and verified partner drivers for safe, affordable and reliable carpool services. Once you subscribe to SheKab, you will be assigned a driver to pick you up twice a day, for 20/24 working days a month, depending on your schedule. SheKab is currently being used by doctors, engineers, teachers, students and women from many different professions.
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