When Niuma Faiz was studying, a school teacher once asked her what she was doing to which she responded by saying that she was studying IT. What he said next was just as shocking to me as it was to her. “Why are you studying when eventually you will have to stay at home and look after children?” Niuma who was extremely baffled did not have the courage to respond. The question made me wonder why he said this. Was it because she was a woman? Or was it because she was studying IT?
During a time where most girls followed a trend of choosing to pursue education and a career in the fields of nursing and teaching, Niuma chose to opt for IT out of its uniqueness and relevance to our lives. Fast-forward to the present, Niuma has over 10 years of experience in the field whereas she is currently a Data Warehouse Administrator at Bank of Maldives Plc. Her work entails designing and developing process models to effectively bring in, load and transform business data, meeting business intelligence demands by building flexible and scalable database structures, developing of business intelligence reports and dashboards in addition to being a technical lead in major automation projections amongst other things.
In addition to this, she has been a member of Women in Tech Maldives since its inception – an NGO working to inspire, empower and celebrate women in Science and Technology with an aim to accelerate the growth of women in the fields by generating opportunities that foster innovation and build the community. She currently serves as the President of Women in Tech Maldives.
With over 10 years of experience in the field, one thing she can tell you that it has not been easy for her, and even other women working in this field in the Maldives. From facing gender-based questions that are irrelevant to the nature of the work on the point of the job interview to being assigned administrative work or menial tasks in no way correlated to IT works – women in the IT field still continue to struggle to establish themselves as equals to their counterpart despite being just as skilled and capable. Add to this is the pay discrimination. Moreover, men are preferred over women when it comes to promotions or chances of career advancement.
But, Niuma believes that her workplace compared to a lot of others in the Maldives – happens to be more welcoming and appreciative of women working in the field. She is lucky to be surrounded by a bit more than a handful of women at her workplace working in the IT field where their work is just valued as those that is done by a man.
Today, Niuma has the courage to respond to the question her teacher had posed when she was younger. She confidently notes that women can be a homemaker while at the same time building a successful career. Gender does not determine what we are capable of whereas to do what we need to do, all that one needs is interest, determination and commitment. Niuma is a proud mother of a beautiful daughter who considers her as a ‘superhero’. To all the women out there, Niuma advises you to not limit yourself to believe that your capabilities limit to what society norms stand. Make your own targets and goals and work towards the goals. If you believe in yourself – then only will others start to believe in you.
IT is the future of this world – and more women need to be a part of this.