“Today, we witness girls making their mark in every field, likewise in aerospace engineering,” said 23-years-old Arooba Faridi after becoming Pakistan’s youngest female aerospace engineer.

Arooba’s father is also an engineer, which is why she has always had a natural inclination towards the field. At the same time, she had a passion for making a change.

“I noticed that there were not many women in this field and I always wanted to make a difference. In addition, I’ve always been mechanically inclined and I love planes too. My father is an electrical engineer. Even as a child, I used to do some tinkering as a hobby along with my father that triggered my love for tools. So, I combined my skills with my passion for planes,” Arooba Faridi told Women’s Republic.

Defying the odds

People view engineering fields as masculine up to this day. That’s why Arooba heard so many discouraging remarks when she changed her field from medical to engineering. “Many told me that it will take so much work in this field that I will get tired. Even many people in my workplace kept on telling me that this is a not a girl’s job,” She recounted.

But her parents’ always helps her to stand firm in her choice. “They have always been my support system especially my father because he works in the same field. My mother was an artist but she couldn’t continue her career after marriage, so she always wanted me to do something in my life.”

She also faced some financial constraints when she had to sit through an exam conducted by European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) in order to obtain an international aircraft maintenance license. Each of the 17 modules cost Rs. 25,000 to 30,000 per paper. They had to be paid in Euros. Nevertheless, she remained persistent, continued her practical work, and made enough money to clear her fees. It took her almost 5 and a half years to make the grade.

Fighting stereotypes

Women have distinguished themselves in every field but people still stereotype them as less competent. People remain distrustful of women’s expertise even if women possess relevant skills. This happened to Arooba, “Senior colleagues deliberately misguided me several times when I started working on new aircrafts. I was being held back in various tasks. There was a belief among certain people that I cannot perform the same task as men. They always kept a close eye with an intent to find a fault in my work but when the engineers started double-checking my work, all their doubts about me disappeared.”

She also touched on the subject of traditional norms and related attitude and practices that restrain girls’ ambitions. They are often the targets of gender-infused stereotypes if they pursue careers in male dominated professions. “One piece of advice that we receive more often is that marriage should be our sole ambition in life. Moreover, working alongside men is still a taboo that inhibits the presence of women in workplaces. We get more criticism than support even If we summon the courage to pursue our career choices based on our interests.”

Advocating for bridging the STEM gap

Women make up a very tiny percentage in STEM fields. Social beliefs obstruct their path and inhibit gender equality. Nevertheless, Arooba believes that we have to ride the obstacles out. “People will always create obstacles. We have to jump over them to reach our goals.”

Photo Credit: Aaj News

Throughout the conversation, she inspired me with her optimism by emphasizing that women can attain everything they set their minds on. She encourages other women to set big goals and have big dreams. “Women in Pakistan are talented and hardworking. They don’t have it easy but that shouldn’t deter their ambitions.”

Women like Arooba are opening doors for other women in the male-dominated engineering fields in Pakistan. Currently she has a basic aircraft maintenance license, but she’s aiming for the top. She’s working hard to move up the rank and become a certified engineer. What counts most is what she’s doing will make it easier for others to follow.

That makes us all proud on her.

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