It’s said we live in a man’s world, and sometimes it definitely feels that way. Have you ever struggled to reach a high bookshelf? Shivered in a freezing office in May? Or simply tried walking on a road in Lahore, alone?
All these are daily examples of what happens when women have to use products and spaces designed by men, for men. When it comes to the workplace, traditionally women have faced a multitude of issues ranging from the pay gap to sexual harassment. All of this stems from assuming that the male viewpoint is the ‘default’ point of view, while women – more than half of the global population – are a niche interest. But that must change, will change and is changing.
For the last 20 years, more women have opted to start their own businesses than ever before, outpacing men, being their own bosses and thriving at it. With an increasing number of big organizations like YouTube, IBM, General Motors, and Mondelēz International appointing female CEOs, the trend towards women in leadership positions is on the rise. Such is also the case in Pakistan, as we have increasingly seen women in leadership positions and the economic growth has given rise to self-made women entrepreneurs in technology, journalism, philanthropy, engineering, and politics – Roshaneh Zafar, Jehan Ara, Shazia Syed, Sima Kamil to name a few.
Women have proven time and again that when given the right tools and environment they can do almost everything between running a household and a successful business. Therefore, a conducive home and work environment is crucial to the success of the do-it-all woman. Flexible workspaces like COLABS that curate a community of founders and creators, welcome women from all walks of life and allows them to build a network with other professionals. They can exchange ideas and business with other like-minded individuals, offer support, and even dress however they feel without the added pressure that comes with being in an environment full of men.
With a healthy female to male ratio and a zero tolerance for workplace-harassment, COLABS constantly strives to create a culture of openness and support that empowers women to step out and do what they’re passionate about. One such example is of Madiha Tahir who runs a startup called the Nordic Loft in Canada, she’s working out of COLABS remotely while she’s managing multiple other consulting gigs. Madiha always knew she had a penchant for fashionable interiors but it all came together when she was setting up her new home and decided to collaborate with a friend to launch Nordic Loft – a curation of “hygge” inspired home décor items like cushions, rugs, lights, blankets and candles etc. Madiha recalls how daunting it was to start her own business, while managing her house and raising her son, “It was scary venturing into a business and letting go off a steady paycheck.” She chose COLABS when she moved back to Pakistan because it gave her the same freedom she felt in Canada.
COLABS has reimagined workplace for women through design and space by introducing open floor concepts, quirky lounges with neon signs, digital art and paintings by female artists to celebrate design and creativity, larger women restrooms and separate prayer areas. Ayesha is an animation expert at Moving Panda Studios and is working out of COLABS coworking. She describes the environment at COLABS to be conducive and friendly even though she is seated with a couple of men she feels very comfortable. She was recently hired just a desk away by AugmentCare for an animation project.
Moreover, there is an incredible focus on women centric events. In collaboration with CIRCLE, COLABS hosted ‘She Loves Tech’ Pakistan chapter; a globally acclaimed women-centric technology start-up competition. The competition was held over 20 rounds across Bangladesh, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong SAR, India, Indonesia, Israel, Latvia, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, UAE, USA etc. Some of the other notable events include Meditation with Tamara, Aurat March Fundraiser, Women on The Go – the future of Inclusive Mobility, Let’s Talk Gender, Women in Business – a guide to working from Home, Cofitness Yoga etc. These events and initiatives enable women to build an ecosystem of support and gives them a chance to network with industry leaders.
It’s safe to say that the modern day woman wants much more than just a fancy office, she wants a workplace that works. Where she can pursue her passions in conjunction with other independent women and men.