Investing in Women Is the Smartest Economic Venture of Today

The following is a guest post from Sadaffe Abid, the founder of CIRCLE, a social enterprise focused on women’s economic empowerment and advancement. She is also the first member of the Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network (DWEN) from Pakistan. Through DWEN, Dell is connecting female entrepreneurs across the globe with networks, sources of capital, knowledge and technology, giving them the power to do more.

At the 2017 DWEN Summit in San Francisco, Sadaffe hosted an UnConference session exploring ways to help women in Pakistan and below is an update on her progress.

woman sitting at table with several girls
Sadaffe Abid (right) talks with young Me & the Bees Lemonade founder and CEO Mikaila Ulmer and other participants at the Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network (DWEN) Summit.

Investing in women is the smartest economic venture of today

For me, DWEN was a highlight. Besides loving Nely Galan’s inspiring journey and lessons, I met incredible women entrepreneurs and even got to present on our tech initiative to empower women and leverage the power of technology. Building on the input, Tech Karo was launched in December 2017 with the goal to bridge the digital gender divide in Pakistan. Tech Karo brings digital skills to 70 youth especially women from under-served communities in Karachi. Some of the women in the cohort earn as little as $40 a month as teachers and have their families to support. They have a spark, a zest to grow, learn and become something in life.

Group of Tech Karo participants in PakistanTech Karo is fostering the future coders of the world, moving beyond traditional programs that teach women embroidery, to up skilling them with 21st-century skills combined with core life skills such as resilience, dealing with set backs, building confidence, allies amongst others. It solves a real business challenge: the lack of enough jobs, and the dearth of women in technology and in the workforce in Pakistan. With less than 25 percent women in the formal labor force and only 14 percent of them in the IT workforce, we believe that Women are Pakistan’s most underutilized potential. Tech Karo aims to build women as economic agents to transform Pakistan’s future.

“When I joined Tech Karo, I immediately gained interest in technology and became passionate to learn this new skill. I am learning to make a website and can now show everyone what I am learning. I have gained a lot of confidence through the life skills.“ Maryum, Tech Karo student

It has been a busy year with growing our flagship initiative, Elevate to promote women’s participation in the economy and grow women leaders. It mobilizes CEOs, leaders, policymakers to commit to gender diversity and works towards UN Sustainable Development Global Goals: SDG 5: Achieve Gender Equality, SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth & SDG 17: Partnerships for achieving sustainable development goals.

McKinsey estimates $ 28 trillion will be added to the global economy by 2025 if there is gender parity. Elevate started as a homegrown local campaign, launched on International Women’s Day in 2016 to increase women’s visibility on panels, committees and forums. More than 1,000 pledges were mobilized including from CEOs. The idea was to discourage #manels or panels with only men, which limit the discussion and do not encourage perspectives of a diverse group. I have now expanded the campaign to include a systemic focus so we can make sustainable change and progress. We have leadership programs for women, are undertaking cutting-edge research on policies to encourage women’s employment as well as mobilizing commitments from CEOs to bring women on boards, leadership and women businesses into supply chains of companies. We are thrilled to be invited to bring Elevate to the MENA region through a key strategic partnership.

CIRCLE is supporting women entrepreneurs and start-ups through mentorship, access to skills and networks. For a second time, we are bringing She Loves Tech to Pakistan, the world’s largest startup competition focused on women and technology. It showcases women-impact and women-founded innovative startups and disruptive technologies across strategic locations on the One Belt One Road axis. In 2017, the competition was held in Canada, China, Germany, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Israel, Pakistan, and Singapore, with finalists consisting of startups in fintech, medtech, spacetech, cloud computing, agritech, data analytics, artificial intelligence, IOT cybersecurity, green energy, environment, voice recognition, etc.

Sadaffe Abid Sadaffe Abid is Founder CIRCLE, a social enterprise focused on women’s economic empowerment and advancement. It builds on her experience as COO and later CEO of Kashf Foundation, a startup she helped grow to serve 300,000 women with microloans. Sadaffe is a graduate of Harvard Kennedy School and a INSEAD Social Entrepreneur in Residence. She tweets: @SadaffeAbid

About the Author: Sheila de Guzman

Sheila de Guzman is the program manager for the Dell Women's Entrepreneur Network. For the past 4 years, she has been the point of contact for hundreds of members worldwide. On the weekends, she cooks for friends, family, and charity with her boyfriend and rescue dog as taste testers.