UAE women blazing trails in tech fields
According to the Arab Gulf State Institute, 40 per cent of university students specialising in computer science and IT in the Middle East are women
Women across the UAE are proving that they are ‘future ready’ by blazing a trail across the technology field, and bringing valuable insights about the latest innovations that are set to change our lifestyles in the coming years.
Caroline Hobeika, senior director of Human Resources at Avaya International, said that there has been a long-standing myth in the technology industry that it is not for women, but that the reality couldn’t be further from the truth.
“Today we see a lot of women – and the number is increasing – holding leadership positions in the technology field, creating enormous impacts across the industry,” she said. “At Avaya, we’re proud to be busting that old myth every day, with women holding international leadership positions in finance, marketing, HR, engineering, and sales.”
To support women entering the industry, she said that organisations need to build an environment that nurtures talent, empowers decision making, and champions accountability and responsibility, irrespective of gender. “To foster diversity and inclusion, we need to sustain an environment that is built on a foundation of trust and respect. We’re living by these values at Avaya, having initiated a number of initiatives to cultivate an inclusive workplace that values differences in thought, race, ethnicity, gender, and culture.”
According to the Arab Gulf State Institute, 40 per cent of university students specialising in computer science and IT in the Middle East are women. The percentage is even higher in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, where women represent 70-80 per cent of computer science and IT students, compared to 15-20 per cent in the United States.
Evgeniya Naumova, VP of the Global Sales Network at Kaspersky, observed that the gender gap in the IT industry is widely known, and that the cybersecurity field within it is also lacking a strong representation of women.
“That said, our recent research has found that 56 per cent of women in tech globally have seen levels of gender equality improve in their organisation over the past two years, while 70 per cent agree that their skills and experience were considered ahead of their gender when applying for their first role. Still, 38 per cent spoke about a lack of women in the sector, making them wary of entering the profession – they don’t see enough examples and role models. So, while progress is being made, there is plenty of room for improvement,” she said.
Having more women in the industry, she added, will set an incredible example for generations to come, and companies will only benefit from improved gender equality in the workplace. Research indicates that gender-balanced teams – where the qualities of men and women complement each other – have an overall positive impact on financial success.
“The IT industry also benefits when women have equal representation within staff structures; generally, women are attentive to details, supporting, patient, nurturing, empathetic, and also passionate about everything they do – all qualities that are important for leadership, management and customer service,” said Naumova. “Our present and future depends on technology, and we all have an equal role to play. In this regard, it has been good to see the IT industry moving in the right direction in recent years and becoming more inclusive.”
Virginie Hollebecque, MD for Western Europe and Middle East regions at Ciena, also noted several success stories where organisations are starting to acknowledge the need for more diversity and inclusion.
“I firmly believe that everyone should be able to pursue a career where they feel valued and included,” she said. “Having a diverse workforce brings new ideas, experiences and different ways of thinking, all of which will help organisations to grow and leverage innovation. We need to change our traditional ways of thinking and hire people with different views, backgrounds, and experiences if we are to truly create new and innovative approaches.”
Company culture, its values and ethos, is becoming more important, she added. “We still have a long way to go as an industry in order to close the diversity gap, but this starts with educating ourselves and looking at what we can do to ensure an inclusive and collaborative workforce. Whether this is through providing mentoring, training, webinars, or simply sharing top tips and advice. Diversity in all of its forms should be celebrated and I would love to encourage more women to enter into the world of technology at a moment where technology and sense of purpose are tied together.”
Iwona Szylar, director of Sales Strategy and Business Performance, CEMEA region at SAS, stressed that it was the responsibility of society and leaders to remove bias and barriers, so that everyone has an equal chance to shine by accomplishing their own mission. “Each of us defines success in a different way. We can find a joy in spending time with family and friends; we may also pursue our goals in professional environment. Our responsibility as individuals is to define our personal path – where do we want to be and what is our vision.”
She added: “SAS fosters a culture of diversity and inclusion by raising awareness about the importance of the subject, and encouraging women to pursue their professional career. According to the results of 2020 Great Place to Work survey, encompassing Central and Eastern Europe, Middle East, Africa, and Russia, 94 per cent of employees stated they are treated fairly, regardless of gender. Just last week, SAS was recognised with the 2021 Athena Global Organizational Leadership Award for its commitment to fostering an inclusive, diverse culture that encourages women to achieve their full leadership potential.”
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