Bangladesh is a place where social stigma around the idea of women doing great stuff is still very high. Although the Head of Bangladesh State is a woman and we have many female representatives in the parliament, still it does not represent reality. The number of women participating in the workforce and taking over important roles or trying to be extra ambitious is still very slim. Moreover, the number of women in technology is even negligible. However, this debate around the underrepresentation of women in tech is not a Bangladeshi problem at all. It is even worse in the western world. In a recent HBR best-performing CEO ranking, only 2% of the world’s top CEOs are women.
In Bangladesh, though, more women are joining the workforce and participating in business, corporates, NGOs, the Government, and more. Here is a list of 6 Women, in no particular order, who have built extraordinary careers in technology, founded their own organizations, or run one as chief, and contributed greatly to society.
Luna Shamsuddoha, Founder and Chairman, Dohatec New Media
Luna Shamsuddoha is the founder and Chairman of the software firm Dohatec New Media. Luna founded Dohatec in 1992 when it was even extremely ambitious for a man to start an IT company in Bangladesh. Dohatech provides Software Solutions, Design, and Development services to institutions, government agencies, and corporations globally and has served global clients like World Bank, Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), World Health Organization (WHO), and the United States Postal Service (USPS), etc.
Currently, Luna is also the President of BWIT, the country’s forum for women in technology. She has received recognition for her path-breaking work internationally and is a Member of the Council of Global Thought Leaders on Inclusive Growth, in Switzerland.
Farhana Rahman, CEO, and Chairperson, Upload Yourself Systems Ltd
Originally coming from a health sector background, the Nutrition sector to be exact, Farhana Rahman realized in early 2003 that there were more and more opportunities in the IT sector. So she became interested in it and took herself a degree in Graphics and Web Development. When she graduated, she easily found a position as a Graphic Consultant in a Bangladeshi company. However, she always wanted to start her own company and was always actively making connections with clients, and technology people.
Finally, in 2003 Farhana started Upload Yourself Systems as a software development and web-solution-providing company. Initially, UYS focused on the local market and worked with local companies but most Bangladeshi companies were not interested in its service i.e. IT enabled services. However, it could not stop her. She decided to go abroad and settled strong business relationships with American and Danish companies. Today, Upload Yourself Systems is a 100% export-oriented company and has been able to build multiple sister concerns.
Sonia Bashir Kabir, Managing Director, Microsoft, Bangladesh
Sonia Bashir Kabir is the managing director for Microsoft Bangladesh. She is also the founder and president of TiE Dhaka, and vice president, and co-founder of Bangladesh Women in Technology (BWIT).
Prior to working for Microsoft, Sonia co-founded Syntec, an IT firm, and also served as the country manager of Dell Bangladesh, the director of business development for South East Asian emerging markets at Microsoft, and the chief operating officer for Aamra Technologies.
Sonia has an astounding body of work. She is educated and trained in Silicon Valley and lived in Northern California for 20 years. After completing her MBA, she worked in Silicon Valley for Fortune 100 companies, such as Sun Microsystems & Oracle, for start-ups and in the financial district.
Ivy Huq Russell, Founder, Maya
Ivy Huq Russell, a former investment banker, Founded Maya with a vision to empower women by giving them access to information and a shared community. After its beta launch in September 2011, Maya is now home to Bangladeshi women seeking community, advice, and support for a better life. Last year, Maya launched Maya Apa, an app where anyone can ask for and get personalized solutions for their problems. Born and grew up in Chittagong, Ivy went to Scholastica, Dhaka for her O and A level, and then she went off to study in the UK where she worked in Finance.
Maya has its ups and downs but it is solving a very critical problem in Bangladesh. There is a dearth of Bangla content online and there is not many support network out there for women in Bangladesh. Maya has become a home to many women in Bangladesh who could not find a place to seek advice and support otherwise.
Sadequa Rahman Sejuti, Founder, Amar Desh Amar Gram
Sadequa Hassan Sejuti is the founder of Amar Desh Amar Gram (My Village, My Country). Sadequa left her architecture career to build an ecommerce platform that can change the livelihood of the people of Bangladesh and help bring them to get out of poverty. Amar Desh Amar Gram takes computers and web access to the lowest income group and empowers them with a possibility that was not ever previously available to them before.
Amardesheshop now features products produced by rural farmers and makers that consumers can buy directly. For its distinctive approach, Sejuti and team Amar Desh Amar Gram has received many national and international awards. However, there has a lot to be done to make ADAG viable as a business.
Maliha M Quadir, Founding Managing Director, Shohoz.com
Maliha is the founding managing director of Shohoz.com, the country’s first and fast-growing online ticketing platform. Starting back in 2014, Shohoz has received venture funding from Fenox, and Singapore-based Sengel Venture and has expanded its service in hotel booking as well. Recently, we have seen a few new players in the market posing a potential threat to Shohoz. However, the Bangladesh market is pretty big to accommodate multiple ticketing companies and Shohoz has been able to position itself strongly in the market.
Maliha has extensive experience in digital services and the investment banking industry. She recently ran Vistaprint's digital business in global emerging markets out of Singapore. Prior to Shohoz, she worked at Morgan Stanley in New York, Standard Chartered Bank in Singapore, Vistaprint, and Nokia. Shohoz is already doing pretty well as far as we know. However, this is just the beginning, and the startup has a long way to go.
This list is far from complete. Is there anyone you know doing amazing work? Please do mention it in the comment.
Note: compiled and edited by Ruhul Kader and Nezam Uddin