Hamna Aslam, Innopolis University - about women in IT, harassment and radical feminism

Hamna Aslam— specialist in game development, game design, researcher and teacher at the Laboratory

artificial intelligence in game developmentInnopolis University. Born and raised in Pakistan. She received her Bachelor's degree in Computer Engineering (Hons) from Baha'addin Zakariya University and her Master's degree in Computer Science from Lahore University of Engineering and Technology in 2015.

“My teachers didn’t care who was in front of them - a boy or a girl”

— Hamna, what place does a woman occupy in science and IT today?

- I will answer with a fairly general phrase, but sincerelyI believe that I am right. Women play the same role in information technology and science as men. Women contribute to development, conduct research, patent inventions, and receive awards.

Just a few decades ago, we and presentthis could not. Science and technology were mainly offered as the natural occupation of men. The boys were constantly involved in video games, communicating with technology. This helped them from an early age to get comfortable in the world of computers. The real experience of interaction with IT has become the basis for choosing their career. For girls, the IT world looked like a world completely filled with men. They simply did not dare to intervene there. Of course, this is not the case for the entire female world, but I am sure that such a belief has long kept women from building a career in IT.

- But can we say that women are as influential as men in these areas?

- Of course, the same influence cannot be - everythingvery simple, we are less in IT than men. It is a fact. As well as the fact that there are wonderful female programmers, researchers of AI, machine learning and other fields. But because of the small representation, of course, it is men who have more projects, influence and power.


- There is a male lobby that prevents women from getting more preferences in science?

- I can only rely on my own knowledge in this matter.experience. And I was extremely lucky - both here in Russia and in Pakistan. My teachers, professors - they didn’t care who was in front of them, a boy or a girl. The main thing is that in front of them is a student. But, of course, I heard people's stories. It's true that men often use a certain attitude - if you're a girl, you can't be a good programmer. Just. That IT is only for boys. But this is only in their heads. True, girls are afraid of such an attitude - at best, condescending. Therefore, I would rather agree that there is real opposition from men.

- If we talk about scientific activities in general,why is still a female scientist - the exception rather than the rule? And the number of Nobel laureates - women can not be compared with the number of men?

- Of course, I have not conducted any research on this matter, and I can only express my opinion. But, being a woman and working in science, I think that my opinion is partly shared by many women.

When I studied in Pakistan, at the physics departments,There were quite a lot of girls in mathematics and chemistry. It cannot be said that there were as many of them as there were guys. But still. And it seems to me that over time this number will grow as girls begin to associate themselves with science or IT. But it's not just about education. The next step for any person is getting a job. And at this stage, women also face problems - employers give preference to men, and I absolutely do not understand why.

- Here, in my opinion, everything is simple, at least in Russia - a man will never give birth to a child, and a woman, as a rule, goes on maternity leave for three years. For an employer, this is not a very bright prospect.

- It's true. When we talk about feminism, although I don’t even know if I can be considered a feminist, I don’t need to assume that women are equal in all men. Because it is not purely biological. And then - yes, indeed, a woman can give birth to a child, go on maternity leave, or even give up her career after birth. This is her personal choice. But in my understanding, feminism is an acceptance of the physical difference between a woman and a man, because it came to us from God. And I do not understand women who talk about full equality. It brings us problems and leads to a dead end. After all, then we can say that a man can also give birth to a child. But it is not.

At the same time, we must reject those differenceswhich do not actually exist: for example, intellectual abilities. This means that a woman is capable of doing the same things as a man. It makes no difference whether a man or woman works in programming or AI.

“Many IT companies are still influenced by gender stereotypes”

“Girls often think that IT andcomputers - exclusively male occupation. Are these consequences of pressure from society and family, or are these logical conclusions from the existing order of affairs - the number of men in IT, again?

- It comes from society. But everything is changing.Just five to ten years ago everything was different. When I was studying for a bachelor's degree in Computer Engineering, we got acquainted with the structure of a computer, hardware and programming. The professor opened the system unit and showed the processor and all other components. All the guys already knew all this and successfully demonstrated their knowledge, because they are more curious when it comes to technology and computers. But the girls, who, it must be said, were few, including me, knew nothing about this. This was completely new information for us.

Society through education should bring towomen, not only in words, but also through practical actions that IT (like any other field of knowledge) cannot belong to people of a certain sex or age. This is just a field of knowledge, and anyone who wants to can understand or do it. In essence, it is necessary to advertise IT, but for women, to celebrate the merits of women who have already taken place in this area, to present awards (of course, deservedly), to create an image of a woman IT specialist.

- Are there any problems that only women face in IT or science?

- The main thing to do is to destroystereotypes that women cannot be as productive as men. This is the main task that faces every woman who comes to science or IT. It sounds strange, but many IT companies are still influenced by gender stereotypes, which any woman has to fight against, even if she is a promising and outstanding specialist.

If you look wider, then regardless of gender andThe main problem in IT, science and business remains the protection of the right to feel safe in their environment. As you understand, for a woman it is more important than for a man.

- But if we compare countries with each other,for example, Pakistan, Russia and any developed country - where are women more likely to build a career in science or IT? Is there a difference in public attitudes towards a woman who chooses a career for herself, and not an imposed one - “being a housewife”?

- Of course, all countries today strive tocreating a healthy work environment, some are ahead of this process, and some are lagging behind. And there is a difference between countries. Although the differences that exist between different organizations in the same country seem more important to me. In general, it all depends on legislation and corporate policies.

Comparing the countries, I can definitely say that in Pakistan it is harder for a woman to build a career. And the reason is one - security.


At the same time, Pakistan is a religious country,people predominantly practice Islam. And education as a gift from God is the right of both men and women. This supports and motivates women. But the only thing stopping them from pursuing a career in IT is the lack of security. It could be a threat of sexual or psychological violence, it doesn’t matter.

In Pakistan today there are already enoughstrict legislation punishing sexual harassment. But problems remain with the implementation of these laws. If a man carries out violence - sexual, physical or in any other way, even if it is ageist, it can make a woman's life unbearable. This raises logical concerns. And not only from the women themselves, but also from their families, who will once again think about whether it is worth sending a member of their family to a obviously unsafe place. But if men know that their illegal actions will definitely have disastrous consequences for them, the problem will be solved.

The other side of the problem is the lack of the samewide employment opportunities for women. Most women in Pakistan now aspire to become doctors because it is the best opportunity for them to have a successful career and decent pay. There simply isn't as much work to do in the IT sector. Especially considering that Pakistan's economy is not that strong.

— What set of factors should exist in society to promote the involvement of women in science and IT? Opportunities for a career in business or any other “traditionally male-dominated fields”?

- I repeat - recognition of the fact that a womancan be as productive as a man. This is what ensures equal opportunities for women and men. It is important to note here: not privileged, but equal opportunities. If society has such established ideas, then they will automatically extend to both science and IT, and therefore will contribute to the creation of equal opportunities for women in education and employment.

We must understand that a person shouldbe assessed on the basis of his qualifications and skills, not gender or ethnicity. Once this understanding becomes the norm, women will not be afraid to choose IT as their profession.

Hamna Aslam

Pakistan's ambitions: promoting a healthy work environment to increase the number of women in the IT sector

- Hamna, you were born, raised and graduateduniversity in Pakistan, a country with conservative traditions. How do people in your country view women's scientific work? How did your family react to your decision to start a career in IT?

- It is true that Pakistan values ​​its traditions,but at the same time it is a very far-sighted country with ambitious people. The government promotes education, making it accessible to everyone throughout Pakistan.

Yes, we have some conservative areas andregions where people may be reluctant to send their daughters and sisters into the IT and science sectors to get an education. But the reason for these decisions is not that men, fathers and brothers do not value education for women. The reluctance stems from the fact that people do not consider the IT sector or academia to be safe for women. And the problem, again, is male dominance. Parents simply realize that there are not many opportunities for women there. They are simply unequal.

But in cities and developed villages it's almost like thathowever, as in Russia, women are actively choosing engineering and science as their profession, flourishing in these areas. Similarly, in my family - I did not encounter any restrictions or prohibitions when I decided to go to IT.


Today in Pakistan we needfocus on underdeveloped areas and small cities to change people's thinking and take into account their doubts about the safety of women in science or IT sectors.

— What projects are you working on? Why did you initially choose IT?

- I work and teach at Innopolis University. In parallel, I am conducting a study on "Human factors in game design." In addition, I have parallel projects in the field of artificial intelligence and disaster management.

Thanks to IT, I do what I consider valuable. There are no boundaries, and every day we see progress in technology. It is so exciting. For me, IT and computer science is a world for innovative experience and a wonderful adventure journey.

The passion for game design began after readingscientific publications of my supervisor, Dr. Joseph Brown. I read a lot about games and applications, convinced of the importance of games. Today, their scope is expanding, and this is no longer just an application for entertainment. We are expanding our horizons, we are treating mental disorders, we make diagnoses and meditate, we train, we hire employees — and all this with the help of games. It is necessary to take into account and study exactly how games can serve for the benefit of humanity and help us in many areas.

For example, the use of games in HR. The same game can cause different feelings for candidates and promote the use of different possibilities. And it depends on many individual features - gender, age, physical condition, education, and so on. In my research, the influence of these factors on the benefits that a person derives from interacting with the game is carefully considered; it, in turn, is checked for all the necessary requirements in order to cause maximum completeness of the immersion and result.

- In your opinion, are there any problems or, on the contrary, the advantages of being a female scientist or an IT specialist in Russia?

- As for Russia, my experience inUniversity Innopolis - very positive and amazing. I work with people who support me very much and respect me as a specialist. Unfortunately, I was not in other parts of Russia, and I do not know what the situation of women there is. But if organizations throughout Russia have the same working environment, then that's great.

“Women can occupy an equal place with men in business if the opportunities presented are also equal”

— Currently, we see successful women in IT- Dr. Quay Vaugh-Reynard, Shrada Agarwal or Christina Haverkamp from Energy. A female top manager still raises eyebrows. For example, at ASI the general director is a woman, but the supervisory board includes 17 men who apparently “watch” her. Why do you think this happens?

- This is normal. The exclusively male members of the supervisory board have historical reasons. In recent decades, basically, only men have been appointed to such bodies and heads of large companies. Now that these people have a lot of experience and have been working in these areas for many years, it makes sense to appoint them to the supervisory board. This is just logical. But the very fact that a woman is the CEO of a large state agency is a huge step towards recognizing skills and abilities that ignore gender.

Women may occupy an equal place with men inbusiness, if the opportunities presented are also equal - access to education, internships and no wage gap. Equal space does not mean an equal ratio of men and women, since this is not the best criterion for deciding on equality.


The number of women can be any, as, however,and men, it depends on who wants to work in what area. Equality occurs when the same opportunities are open to everyone (regardless of gender), when everyone is free to accept or reject them depending on their priorities, and not because of pressure from society or an organization that makes the conditions for entry into a particular profession is not very comfortable.

- Over the past year there have been many scandals,related to sexual harassment. Most of the victims are women. How to solve this problem? Why is this still possible even in the West, where equality and liberal values ​​are promoted?

- Propaganda of equality and liberal values ​​does not mean their observance.

Sexual harassment is a serious problemwhich needs to be addressed all over the world. If you do not take action, it will lead to a catastrophe for the economy and society as a whole. Basically, the government is empowered to solve this problem by establishing strict laws on such crimes. But we must do it humanely, taking care of all people, regardless of gender. After all, women are the main, but not the only victim of sexual harassment.

A person should feel safe inhis environment, and if he faces such problems, he should not be afraid of bringing the matter to the authorities. Anxiety concerns not only sexual harassment, but also all that makes a person feel uncomfortable. This may be psychological persecution due to discrimination based on gender, age, ethnicity and the like.

All people living in any part of the world have the rightfeel accepted and safe. Unfortunately, all over the world we are far from achieving this goal, but, fortunately, we recognized this as a problem, and this is the first step towards its solution.

I do not often read the news, but when I come acrossthe information related to the harassment truly surprises me. And no one talked about this before, did not discuss it publicly. Why? Women usually do not talk about this in the media because they are afraid of social stigma and stigma.

In Eastern countries, women constantly experience shame. Because if they talk publicly about being victims of harassment, society will begin to blame them.

- In Russia, the feminist agenda for the last yearbecame one of the most popular in the Internet space and political discussions. Sometimes taking radical forms, as was the case with Reebok ads. And is there in the humiliation of a man the very equality for which women are fighting?

- I think radical feminism isthe phenomenon is primarily associated with personal gain. When something brings you tangible benefits, then why not use it for your own personal goals, for example, for your own popularity. This is very sad. Feminism is not a competition, who is better - women or men. No one is better. Such radical manifestations only generate new problems.

- Hamna, do you think that in 10–15 years such areas of activity will appear in science, IT or business, where men have previously dominated, and women have become?

- It is difficult to predict the future, but knowingIt seems to me that public opinion and the attitude of men towards women as unequal in terms of capabilities and abilities will take more than 10 or 15 years to accept women in these "male" spheres. But I know one thing for sure: we, women, should never stop and stop cultivating ourselves.