Women’s participation in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields has been gaining momentum worldwide, including in the Middle East. Despite cultural and societal challenges, many women in the region are breaking barriers and excelling in STEM careers. In this article, we will explore the unique experiences and challenges faced by women in the field of STEM in the Middle East. We’ll also contemplate the valuable insights gained over the recent years and review strategies for more women in the Middle East to succeed in this area. By shedding light on the accomplishments of women in the region and sharing practical advice, we aim to inspire and empower more women to pursue and thrive in STEM fields.
Challenges for Women in STEM in the Middle East
Cultural and Societal Norms: Traditional cultural expectations and societal norms can pose challenges for women pursuing careers in STEM. Cultural biases and gender stereotypes may discourage women from entering these fields or create barriers to their career advancement. According to a 2021 UNESCO Science Report, only 33 percent of researchers worldwide are women.
Limited Access to Education and Resources: Unequal access to quality education and resources in STEM fields can hinder women’s opportunities to develop the necessary skills and knowledge early on for successful careers. This can be particularly pronounced in certain regions of the Middle East. For example, in Palestine, there is not a body that supports graduate funding, nor are there research laboratories or projects for women passionate about a career in STEM. These challenges manifest from the region’s political state of affairs but do have a significant impact on women’s access to educational resources.
Lack of Representation and Role Models: The absence of female role models and limited representation of women in STEM leadership positions can make it difficult for aspiring women to envision themselves succeeding in these fields. The lack of visible examples can contribute to women in a STEM career feeling isolated and having self-doubt. Although the Gulf region is blazing a trail for women, there is still a way to go given that they constitute only 57% percent of the STEM workforce.
Work-Life Balance: Balancing personal and professional responsibilities remains a challenge for many women, particularly in demanding STEM careers. The pressures of early-career STEM professionals combined with the increased stress caused by a lack of separation between home and work, will continue to impact the number of women graduates in STEM fields who can continue to sustain a progressive career after graduation. Encouraging social policies and support systems that promote work-life balance can help retain and advance women in these fields.
Strategies for Success in Promoting Women in STEM
Embrace Education and Skill Development: Pursue education in STEM disciplines and continually develop your skills and knowledge. Seek out opportunities for specialized training, attend workshops, and engage in continuous learning to stay updated with the latest advancements in your field.
Seek Mentorship and Networking: Connect with experienced professionals and mentors who can provide guidance and support throughout your STEM journey. Join professional networks, attend conferences, and engage in networking activities to expand your connections and learn from others’ experiences.
Overcome Cultural Barriers with Confidence: Recognize the cultural barriers and societal norms that may exist and develop the confidence to challenge them. Be resilient and determined in pursuing your STEM goals, and advocate for equal opportunities and recognition.
Foster Collaboration and Supportive Environments: Collaborate with like-minded individuals, both men, and women, who support and believe in your abilities. Create or join communities and organizations that foster a supportive and inclusive environment for women in STEM.
Be a Role Model and Mentor: As you progress in your STEM career, become a role model for aspiring women in the Middle East. Share your experiences frequently, mentor others, and actively participate in initiatives that promote gender diversity and normalise equality in STEM.
The UAE’s Progress in Women’s Participation in STEM
Increased University Enrollment: The UAE has witnessed a notable increase in female enrollment in STEM subjects at universities, with a majority of graduates in these fields being women. This demonstrates a growing interest and aptitude among Emirati women for pursuing STEM education. In the United Arab Emirates, 61% of university STEM students are women.
Government Initiatives and Support: The UAE government has implemented various initiatives to promote women’s participation in STEM. These efforts include scholarships, research grants, and programs aimed at fostering STEM education and research among girls and women.
UAE’s Progress With Women in STEM Careers
Despite challenges, there are Arab women who have made remarkable strides in the fields of STEM. Even though they have faced numeric obstacles such as cultural barriers, limited role models, access to resources, these women kept their eye on the prize and overcame it all. Here is the list of accomplished Arab women making significant contributions in STEM fields. It’s important to recognize and celebrate the achievements of these women and encourage more women in the Arab world to pursue careers in STEM.
Women in the Middle East are breaking barriers and excelling in STEM careers, despite the challenges they face. By embracing education, seeking mentorship, challenging cultural norms, fostering collaboration, and becoming role models, women in the region can pave the way for future generations of female STEM professionals. Let us celebrate and support the achievements of women in STEM in the Middle East and work together to create a more inclusive and diverse landscape for all aspiring professionals.
With six in 10 UAE university graduates in STEM subjects being female, a trend that is higher than even the levels in the USA and Europe, the nation has made significant strides in promoting gender diversity in these fields. However, despite this progress, more work is needed to ensure women’s continued advancement and access to equal opportunities in STEM careers.
This article is for informational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. To the extent that this article features the advice of physicians, medical practitioners, or industry experts, the views expressed are the views of the cited expert and do not necessarily represent the views of Gaggler.