Trade Forum Features

Women in IT in Bangladesh are empowered and connected

8 December 2015
ITC News
Bangladesh has made great strides to improve the empowerment of women, writes Shameem Ahsan.

The Government of Bangladesh thanks International Trade Forum magazine for its interest in Bangladesh’s IT sector. The ‘Digital Bangladesh’ program, one of the key priorities of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, works to increase democracy, human rights, transparency and entrepreneurship through an ambitious effort to upgrade the country’s IT infrastructure and include citizens in the knowledge economy.

However, the article, ‘Women in IT in Bangladesh face challenges to get connected’ (Trade Forum *ITALICS*, Issue 1, 2015), fails to correctly portray the overall situation and also includes key mistakes.

Though women in Bangladesh’s IT industry may be in the minority, that is true of the industry anywhere in the world, including Silicon Valley. A recent Fenwick & West report showed that women hold just 11% of executive positions at Silicon Valley companies compared to the S&P 100, where 16% of executives are women. Bangladesh, however, is creating various opportunities for women with an aim to increasing women’s participation in the IT sector. For example, about 5,000 digital centres, established by the government at the Union level (the lowest level of administrative units), are managed by a team of one man and one woman in each centre.

It is untrue to say that Bangladesh women have ‘only recently’ begun working outside the home. Bangladesh is the world’s second-largest exporter of ready-made garments, an industry dominated by women employees who began joining this workforce in the 1980s. Women also work in the banking sector, sales and marketing, customer care and call centres and a number of other sectors, some of which involve working in the evening shifts. In addition to the prime minister, the political opposition leader and the speaker of the National Parliament are women, as are many ministers.

Finally, the article’s claim that ‘It is also hard for women entrepreneurs to gain access to finance’ is demonstrably false by regulation and practice. Thanks to bank quotas on loans to women it is easier for a woman to receive financing in Bangladesh than a man. Male entrepreneurs often open businesses in their wives’ names in order to receive financing at cheaper rates.

Years of investment by government and non-government agencies has helped Bangladesh earn international recognition for its efforts to empower women. Bangladesh has achieved a number of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals for women far ahead of time. Bangladesh will continue its efforts, not only in the IT sector, but in all sectors.