I was so honored to get to blog about the panel "Technical Women in the Arab Region: Challenges vs. Aspirations" - this panel was made up of graduates of the inaugural class of the TechWomen program, for which I have been honored to mentor emerging leaders for the last two years. TechWomen is a project of the US Department of State, which, working with the International Institute of Education and the Anita Borg Institute, has for two years brought emerging technical women leaders to the US for mentorship and for the second year has brought these women to Grace Hopper. (For more information, visit http://www.techwomen.org)
“Technical Women in the Arab Region: Challenges vs. Aspirations” was one of GHC12 interesting and motivating panels which answered the main question posed by GHC this year “Are We There Yet?” from the perspective of the Arab Region and went on to explain that, if not, then “How can we get there?”
The panel was the fruit of the efforts exerted by four dedicated and ambitious professional technical Arab women who work for national and international bodies located in various countries of the Arab region. These ladies are Ms. Sukaina Al-Nasrawi (United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, Lebanon), Ms. Maysoun Ibrahim (Office of the Palestinian President, Palestine), Ms. Reham Nasser (Hewlett Packard, Egypt) and Ms. Hania Gati (LVSC Mediterranee, Algeria). They succeeded, after a highly competitive process, in formulating a panel on Arab women in computing. The latter was regarded as a breakthrough as it was the first of its kind in the history of the conference.
The panel, moderated by Ms. Katy Dickinson (Huawei Technologies, USA), constituted a forum for reporting on successful trends as well as areas that remain complex in the field of technology. It provided an opportunity for sharing personal experiences of technical Arab women who are professional in their field and successfully went through the experience of the inaugural class of TechWomen 2011, participated in GHC 2011 and received TechWomen Change Agent Scholars awards.
Panelists tackled the status of ICT in the Arab region along with the status of technical Arab Women. They explored the opportunities, hopes as well as the diverse challenges facing Arab technical women in the region. Discussions highlighted the global and national gender gap that exists in the region while attributing special attention to the gap at the level of ICT literacy and employment. Each of the panelists shed the light on social and cultural issues leading young girls to desert technology. Common issues for the region exist and others are particular to certain countries.
The panel highlighted many achievements in the field and at the same time focused on the needed strategies for increasing the interest of girls in majoring in technical fields, as well as achieving their career goals. The theme of this panel was of high importance as many Arab countries are witnessing a rise in female participation in the ICT sector; however this rise remains very modest and varies enormously from one Arab country to another.
The audience of the panel was very diverse. It included researchers interested in exploring the status of ICT in the Arab region and status of technical Arab Women, academic leaders, Executives, exchange programs’ mentors, and members of the class of TechWomen 2012. The panel was also delighted by the attendance of Dr. Telle Whitney, the President and CEO of the Anita Borg Institute.
At the end of the session, Katy invited all, 2011 TechWomen, 2012 TechWomen, and mentors past and present, to take a photo together:
So inspiring to see that the question "are we there yet", when asked about Technical Women in the Arab Region, can be so enthusiastically answered with "look at what the future holds!"
*All photos in this blog are credited with thanks to Katy Dickinson and Jessica Dickinson Goodman