Women's Voice: Why the region need to see greater women participation in engineering - Gulf Business
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Women’s Voice: Why the region need to see greater women participation in engineering

Women’s Voice: Why the region need to see greater women participation in engineering

Although the number of STEM graduates are high in the Arab countries, it doesn’t necessarily translate to representation in the workforce

Engineering is one of those professions that, according to the statistics, does not seem to attract enough women when they choose their career. Nevertheless, history is full of female engineers whose contributions have been fundamental to understanding the world as we see it today.

These days, a vast number of female engineers work every day in this key profession, developing our cities and societies.

Here are some of the challenges that women face when entering the engineering space.

Getting women involved in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) is a big concern in Western countries. There are more and more efforts being driven by the schools and universities to encourage more representation of women in STEM, which has been lacking. However, in certain countries in the Middle East, things are different.

In Jordan, Qatar and the UAE, women in STEM feel more comfortable in mathematics than men and are not intimidated to say they like science-based subjects. According to UNESCO, 34-57 per cent of STEM graduates in Arab countries are women, even reaching 59 per cent of total students enrolled in Computer Science in Saudi Arabia, while the figures in the UK and USA were 16 per cent and 14 per cent respectively.

What are the real motives behind Arab women choosing science majors? According to the latest surveys, the relationship between occupations and levels of wellbeing and creativity are some of the main factors influencing students in choosing their majors.

The problem comes once they finish their studies: although the number of STEM graduates are high in the Arab countries, it doesn’t necessarily translate to representation in the workforce. In fact, 13 of the 15 countries with the lowest rate of female participation in the workforce are in the Arab world, according to the World Bank.

This loss takes a toll on the bottom line, too. The evidence shows that more diverse organisations enjoy greater creativity, stronger governance, better problem-solving skills and increased profitability. Hence, it is urgent that the engineering and science industry in the Arab region promotes women in relevant professional positions.

The rise of graduate female numbers must be perceived as a new opportunity for the industry in the Gulf countries. Nowhere is gender balance as valuable as in scientific study itself. Arab women in STEM are definitely inspiring, and their success stories are good examples to other countries attempting to increase female interest in the field.

Besides, STEM professions are actually financially rewarding so this can also be something to have on mind at a time when society is more consumption-oriented than in the past.

Also the opportunity to carry out and implement projects that enormously improve people’s quality-of-life is something amazing. The challenges and the possibility to solve problems in a practical way is highly rewarding. Engineering is an excellent tool for providing practical solutions for real needs and problems.

Taking on the infinite challenges associated with this profession is not simple, but fortunately, there are many women working in this field and others that are now beginning their careers. There is no doubt that all of them will leave an indelible mark for both today’s generation and those in the future.

Paloma Martin is the head of Marketing and Communications for Acciona Middle East

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