The pandemic has had devastating effects on the workforce, as it continues to struggle against the rapidly shifting models of work. This being especially true for women who, from 2019–2021, have faced a 4.2% employment elimination rate globally compared to the 3% for men according to the World Economic Forum with SHRM citing over 1.8 million fewer women returning to the office since the first lockdown imposed in February 2020.
A major reason for this glaring omission is, women, especially in Pakistan, are often posited as the principal caretakers, expected to prioritize the household first and their careers second.
Though this is something that has been gradually changing, the need for this change has heightened after the pandemic, with many determined women taking up the mantle of entrepreneurship and leading by example. At daftarkhwan we like to highlight these founders bringing a wave of change through our fireside chats. Constantly underestimated in her early years, Ayesha Chundrigar, founder of ACF Animal Rescue, the first and largest animal rescue and sanctuary for abused, neglected, and injured stray animals in Pakistan, never thought of herself as a leader. But after dealing with multiple crises and managing to successfully shelter 650+ animals, Ayesha has adapted to a leadership style of her own, “People have this perception that a leader is someone boisterous and aggressive, the loudest person in the room. I prefer to talk through my actions.”
The confidence that women like Ayesha exude, overcoming discrimination, often empowers other women to also move out into the working world and make their visions a reality. This is showcased by Azima Dhanjee, Co-founder of ConnectHear, and her journey. Recipient of the prestigious Diana Award, ConnectHear is a social enterprise that aims to make a more hearing loss inclusive Pakistan by providing sign language interpretation services through their app. Born to two deaf parents, Azima’s inspirations come from her grandmother who “raised four deaf daughters in a time where it wasn’t appreciated, fighting against people who would tell her your daughters won’t amount to anything” and her mother who “challenged the world by raising her daughter to be independent, to not let gender dictate where and how far she could go.”
At daftarkhwan we cherish diversity and inclusion, by partnering with organisations such as ConnectHear we’re able to build a community which harbors ambitious individuals from different backgrounds that naturally come together for their love of innovation and disruption.
Ambareen Baig, Head of Insights at Invest2Innovate, expressed, “Coming into the office, as a woman, I never feel self conscious about the attire I’m wearing or how I’m talking.” For her, the sense of community here goes beyond networking, morphing into an actual support system she can rely on. We consciously design our spaces to be open and inclusive - yet functional so women at daftarkhwan can feel safe at their workspace.
However, it’s not just gender inclusivity we strive for but also, racial, ethnic and religious. From Austria, Katharina Pliskal, Project Development Coordinator for Pakistan at Gender Concerns International, a non-profit organization that conducts election observation missions through a gendered lens, felt welcomed and unjudged, “You feel you’re part of a team even if it might not necessarily be a team from your company,” while daftarkhwan’s very own Cynia Ejaz, Regional Manager North, felt encouraged to join our team because “As someone belonging to a minority group in Pakistan while also being a woman competing in a relatively man’s world, for me, what mattered the most is that the people who work here have substantial autonomy and can be their best authentic selves.”
While we hope to encourage women to achieve their dreams, we realize that all dreams aren’t limited to the office; most women want to strike a balance between their private and professional life. A large number of women not returning to work post-pandemic has been because schools and daycares have continued to shut on and off throughout the last two years.
Co-working spaces allow women the flexibility to do their best work while keeping the hours that suit them best, giving them the opportunity of having a formal vibrant workplace without the constraints of a 9–5.