The ever-evolving telecom industry has witnessed remarkable transformations, propelling it from the era of voice calls and text messages to a digital powerhouse. Amidst this dynamic landscape, an intriguing possibility motivates me: how can our services empower women to transcend limitations and unlock their true potential? This question has driven me throughout my 19-year journey with Telenor, where I have come to appreciate the significance of self-acknowledgment and the immense impact women can create. Today, I stand not only as a witness to change but also as an active participant in shaping mindsets and fostering an inclusive and empowered society.
The active participation of women in the workforce is vital for economic success, and in Pakistan, where women represent a mere 20% of the labor force, their contribution is crucial for progress and GDP growth, as I see it, ‘womenomics’ is in fact the great equaliser. Womenomics is the idea of women as drivers of a nation’s economy, a term originally coined by Kathy Matsui, strategist at Goldman Sachs, and I stand as a firm believer of the concept. Enabling women’s participation in the digital workforce is crucial for economic success, requiring active efforts on us all to advocate gender-sensitive policies and seek leadership opportunities.
Through a range of impactful initiatives, I have had the privilege of actively participating in projects that have made a significant difference in bridging the digital divide in one shape or form. One area where I was personally vested in was our efforts in connecting women, enabling them to access opportunities that enhance their lives, occupations, and socioeconomic positions. An excellent example of this commitment is Telenor Pakistans Khushaal Aangan, a platform aimed to empower and educate Pakistani women in rural areas by providing them with content around Health & Nutrition, and Livestock & Household management all delivered through an interactive voice response (IVR). Then there is Telenor’s Gamebird, a pioneering eSports gaming ecosystem, which aims to build an inclusive eSports community and offer immersive experiences for both casual and hardcore gamers. It has been truly inspiring to witness girls from our country not only participating in competitions but also excelling in an arena traditionally dominated by men. Moreover, our Digital Birth Registration project has provided over 1.8 million Pakistani children with their fundamental right to identity, significantly reducing the average processing time from three days to just ten minutes. The project’s success led to it being handed over to government partners in 2021 for further scalability. These initiatives exemplify the core principles of womenomics, emphasizing the socioeconomic empowerment of women and the creation of equal opportunities. By leveraging technology and addressing the specific challenges faced by women, we are actively contributing to a more inclusive society, where women can thrive and contribute to the fabric of their communities.
However, there is no denying that challenges persist for women in the tech industry, but I always advise female professionals to not allow these obstacles to define them or limit their potential. I firmly believe that pushing boundaries and taking risks are the driving forces behind transformative change. However, it is imperative that we reassess societal constructs. Men in positions of influence must actively transform the narrative and embrace gender inclusion, fostering a ‘He for She’ culture that empowers capable women and embraces diversity in thought, age, and gender.
I strongly believe that inclusion of a greater number of women in the economy, is actually the great equalizer, and the work we do today on this, will promise us collective progress in the future. I implore women to embrace their uniqueness, raise their hand and achieve all that they aspire for, as an undeniable right. Let us persevere and continue our journey until we are recognized as individuals capable of achieving anything we set our minds to. I envision a future where women are recognized and honored for their achievements, and the talent and potential I witness in women today assures me that this future is well within reach.
Chief People Officer, Telenor Pakistan
Areej Khan has been a part of Telenor Pakistan since the past 18 years. Over this period, she has gathered in-depth experience in digital, eBusiness and communications domain.
Areej started off her career with Telenor Pakistan in Corporate Communications and in 2011 she took on the responsibilities as Manager Digital Marketing & eBusiness. After over four successful years of developing digital and multi-channel marketing strategies, Areej moved back to head Corporate Communications in 2015.
Areej is currently leading the Digital Division at Telenor Pakistan as VP Digital and Growth as she took up the role in August 2020.
Areej is a seasoned professional with educational background in Business Management from State University of New York at Stony Brook and later has been a part of Strategy and Executive Leadership Programs at London Business School, INSEAD and Stanford University.