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Report: Where are Women in Tech?

Are women in tech making their mark? Hopscotch reporter, Nikita Chawlani, takes a look at the background, the issues and the current wins in the MENA region.


"Achieving economic and workplace equality for women has been an ongoing battle worldwide. When we think of a key sector such as, technology, we think of cutting edge ideas, new inventions and naturally assume men bringing in these changes despite women being equal users of industry. Let’s face it, the tech industry has been a boy’s club for far too long.

 

                                                        


UAE is undoubtedly seen as an example of rapid and successful development in terms of infrastructure, economy and the progress of its people. UAE is trying to lead the way in empowering women and its achievement can perhaps be best symbolized from the evolution and growing importance of Women as partners and contributors in the remarkable nation-building process. 

 

BUT, needless to say, there have been major challenges for UAE to overcome:

 

According to the World Bank 2017, 13 out of 15 countries with lowest rate of female participation are in the Arab world. And according to thenational 2017, 40% women were noticed economically inactive, out of which 14% were jobless. 

 

In relation to the mindset, factors such as, social and religious attitudes also make it harder for women to join the workforce in UAE. Research shows men are generally supportive of women getting a job, rather children and marriage are the barriers. So not only is it important to find a potential job, it is also important to find employment that help maintains work-life balance i.e. flexible working for women. 

 

Overall, there isn’t a lack of female talent, but just not enough women are seen as eligible to work or offered appropriate opportunities. Although females may recieve encouragement to pursue their careers beyond norms, in order to prove themselves, women must first be given the platform to achieve.

 

The UAE government has taken various initiatives to empower women and provide equal opportunities. Times are seen changing and tides have turned in favor of women. 

 

Introduced in 2017, the UAE Gender Balance Council aims to develop policies that equalize opportunities between men and women for leadership and decision-making positions. Even more positive is the ruling introducing female presence in corporate boardrooms, with a target of 20% by 2020 for listed companies. 


Hence, career opportunities are rising but what’s unique is in terms of education, surveyed by UNESCO 2018, it is seen women graduating in STEM (a curriculum based idea of educating students in 4 disciplines – Science, technology, engineering and mathematics by UAE government) represent 34% to 57% of graduates, much higher than the western world and 35% of the internet entrepreneurs in the Arab World are women – compared to the 10% worldwide. The number of UAE women in engineering and science roles is almost triple the global standard, according to the UAE minister for Advanced Sciences. In this manner, UAE IS turning into a hub where a considerable lot of these ladies are coming to begin and propel their professions.

 

Diverse roles and new perspectives are vital to development of technologies or any field but in technology UAE is believed to be leading the way. An American woman working in the block chain sector says she has never seen a place so inspiring as the United Arab Emirates, Dubai in particular. Middle east is embracing women like never before, 27.5% of women who make up the UAE cabinet all play key roles in supporting technology and innovation in the country. For example, Dr. Aisha Bishr leading Smart Dubai office is driving most of Dubai’s innovation towards implementing smart technologies and to make UAE a paperless and block chain powered city. Ms. Amal Al Mutawa on the other hand, serves as the UAE’s chief happiness and positivity officer. Women are seen present in all the major technology initiatives and, in many instances, are leading them smashing glass ceilings. This leadership helps many re-think the positioning of female roles in an inclusive and thriving technology hub.


                                                                         

                                                            


Reflecting on the above, in parallel to the country’s growth, the status of women has flourished as well. Women today constitute a vital part of the nation’s workforce and actively contribute to the country’s growth. A government representative mentioned; “Women here are key drivers of the technology agenda in academia, research, government, and the private digital sector. You can see a female presence in everything that we do here that’s technical.”


It’s not a man’s world anymore. 


There is no doubt that women role models are encouraging women to break away from conventional areas of employment and are serving as a positive example to inspire the next generation of female leaders. As Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid mentioned himself; “A place without women is a place without spirit."

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