Creating networks for 1 million Pakistani women

Silhouette of business people standing and working (© Shutterstock)
(© Shutterstock)

Over the next three years, companies based in the U.S. and Pakistan have pledged to connect 1 million Pakistani women and girls with professionals in a variety of fields — ranging from medicine and business to academia.

The companies include U.S. brands such as Citi, S&P Global, The Resource Group and KFC, also known as Kentucky Fried Chicken. Karachi-based ZAFA Pharmaceutical Laboratories and Hum Network Limited are among the Pakistani firms participating in the Pakistan Million Women Mentors Initiative.

Women speaking to each other across tables (State Dept.)
At the Pakistan Million Women Mentors Initiative’s launch in September, Acting Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs Alice G. Wells (second from right) meets with Pakistani women to discuss their mentorship goals. (State Dept.)

“So few women feel like they are connected to someone who can help them grow professionally,” said Radhika Prabhu, the executive director of the U.S.-Pakistan Women’s Council, a public-private partnership that is spearheading the effort. “This initiative helps to disrupt that [isolation] and create networks for women.”

PepsiCo Pakistan said it will provide mentors to young Pakistani women from backgrounds in science, technology, engineering and mathematics who are entering the workforce for the first time, “nurturing them through their first months of work and increasing their chances of success and retention,” the company said in a statement on its Facebook page.

The World Bank reports that Pakistan has a low rate of female entrepreneurship and suggests that building women’s professional networks through mentorship is an essential way to address this deficit.

The three major objectives of the Pakistan Million Women Mentors Initiative are:

  • Mobilize top businesses in Pakistan to raise awareness for mentorship best practices.
  • Develop a mentoring coalition that supplies resources for women and men who wish to become mentors.
  • Curate mentoring relationships, focusing on women’s workforce participation and entrepreneurship.

“The data is clear: We need to do more for women,” Prabhu said. “It’s good for businesses, Pakistan, and it’s good for women. Mentorship is critical.”