09/29/2009 10:51 PM
Dubai: Science and technology experts from around the Arab world have flocked to the first Arab Women in Science and Technology Conference held this week. Lack of education and employment opportunities were the main talking points of the event seeking ways to empower Arab women.
"Empowering women is about giving them the opportunity to advance themselves and become successful," said Dr Sulayma Al Barwani, Member of Parliament and Associate Professor, Faculty of Medicine, Sultan Qaboos University in the Sultanate of Oman.
"I hope that through the efforts of this conference we can come up with an accurate estimate of how women are doing in the science and technology field, find the size of the gap between men and women in this field and whether this is a problem in the Arab world or with women in general. You can't begin to solve a problem without first identifying it and assessing it."
"A rising trend sees that with the advancement of economic development, women, more than men, are not taking advantage of the employment opportunities offered to them," said Dr Maitha Salem Al Shamsi, UAE Minister of State. "Low-paying jobs are discouraging women from leaving the house."
She added that people shouldn't be satisfied with obtaining a degree, they should strive for continuous training and education; "there are programmes that are put in place to promote that".
"In the UAE, we provide the means and the opportunity for education to allow women to compete in the current job market. UAE University offers Masters Degrees in 12 different science fields including engineering. Zayed University is seeing an increase in the majority of women entering the IT field."
"About 32 per cent of the students in UAE University are enrolled in science and technology majors; of whom 72 per cent are women. UAE and Zayed Universities have had 3,266 students in post-graduate degrees out of which 87 per cent were in the science, technology and engineering fields."
"We are seeing another trend where women are disappearing from the workplace after graduating from university. This is the results of out-dated tradition with Muslim and Arab cultures that become an obstacle for women to succeed in the workplace," said Dr Mona Hassoun, President of the Arab Academy E-Business in Syria.
"Marriage also seems to be an obstacle as we have found that [in Syria] the workplace consists of 20 per cent unmarried women as opposed to 12 per cent married. Allowing women to work from home would be a great initiative that will break these barriers."
"Legislations should also be put in place to allow for part-time employment for women," added Al Barwani.
"We are behind the whole world when it comes to education and science and technology in particular," said Dr Farouk Al Baz, Director of the Centre for Remote Sensing at Boston University.
"There is no field that women cannot succeed in," Al Baz said and added that psychological obstacles appear even before they have finished school.
"Obstacles begin even within the family; women are told not to take science and technology or that girls are bad in math, for example."
"In the UAE, education opportunities are reasonably well; women out number men in universities here," said Al Baz who moderated the session.
"The problem comes in opportunities to apply that education."
Should more women be encouraged to study and work in the science and technology field? How will this benefit the line of work?