Dr. Fauzia Idrees Abro
CEO, Cynosure Technologies
Founding President, WiSTEM
This quarter’s WIA Woman to Watch is Dr. Fauzia Idrees, who was selected for her meaningful impact on the STEM community, outstanding work ethic, and impressive accomplishments within her field.
Tell us about yourself. What do you do?
I am an Electronics Engineer with a Master’s degree in Information Security and a Ph.D. in Cyber Security. I have over 22 years of experience working in industry, academia, and military. Currently, I am the CEO of Cynosure Technologies focused on providing IT, data analytics, cybersecurity solutions, and consultancy.
How did you get where you are today?
I belong to a remote area of Pakistan. Life was tough; getting an education was extremely difficult due to social and cultural problems. I used to study a lot because I always dreamed of becoming an outstanding professional. I was lucky to get unending support from my family.
Your nominator said you were “the first female engineer and first female to join the military from her native town.” Can you tell us about that journey? What inspired you to join when there were no other women in the military?
Yes, I am the first female engineer and first female from my native town to join the Military. Let me admit that I didn’t plan to join Pakistan Air Force (PAF) until a friend of mine informed me that PAF has invited female engineers to join in, and she asked me to give her company. While filling in the forms, she asked me to apply as well and that is how my journey in PAF commenced.
What inspired you to go into engineering? Why is it an area you’re so passionate about?
When I decided to pursue my higher studies, engineering was considered the most challenging career in my country, and only the best of the best students could make it. Another factor was the math skills, which girls at that time were reluctant to opt due to the complexity of the subject. Hence, engineering became the boys-only field in my country and girls preferred not to join the male-dominated colleges and universities. It was more challenging because of prevailing social, cultural and religious reasons; generally, girls were not allowed to study in a male-dominated environment.
How did you get into Information Security? What topics in that area do you find most interesting? What are you working toward next in this field?
During my bachelor’s, I participated in an all Pakistan engineering students’ competition where I presented my project on the security of mobile communications, and I won the IEEEP Gold Medal. I continued it as my final year’s project, and working on the subject increased my interest in communication security.
The person who nominated you also said: “Fauzia is an active STEM ambassador. She promotes and supports STEM education for girls in Pakistan.” Why do you think STEM is so important? What issues have you found come up as an ambassador for STEM education in girls?
Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics professionals are a critical component of society and they play a vital role in the sustained development and growth of any country’s economy. STEM education creates and nourishes thinkers, increases science literacy, and enables the next generation of innovators to uplift their capability for becoming an instrument of devising future state of the art technologies.
Please tell us why you decided to found Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (WiSTEM). Can you describe that process and how it felt? What does WiSTEM mean to you now?
I have personal experience and also have seen many other females who struggled while pursuing their careers in STEM education and subsequent professions. Like the rest of the world, women and girls are underrepresented in all STEM fields in Pakistan, as statistics say that there are only 9% women in research fields of the public sector which is extremely alarming.
What do you say to women or girls interested in getting into academic or career options involving STEM?
Several women in STEM have embraced their dreams and proven to society that women are just as capable in the fields of science, math, technology, and engineering as their male counterparts. Like the rest of the world, there is a significant gender gap in STEM disciplines in Pakistan. If we do not bridge this gap, we will be more prone to hit the poverty line in the near future.
Who did you idolize when you were young?
I always idolized Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, for his resilience, hard work, and devotion to his cause. I think he is best defined by Stanley Wolpert and remains a true beacon for our generations.