Post-Covid world will see more women in tech: Experts

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Dubai - Today, a lot of women are already taking up STEM courses but an evaluation must be done to understand how they take their STEM skills to their professional careers.

By Saman Haziq

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Published: Thu 28 Jan 2021, 11:17 PM

Covid-19 accelerated the adoption of fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) technologies as companies and businesses switched to remote operations and till date are relying heavily on cloud computing, artificial intelligence, the speed of 5G network, big data, and more. This — coupled with flexible work models — has proven to work in favour of women, helping them attain a work-life balance in a post-Covid world, experts have said at a webinar organised by the Dubai Women Establishment (DWE).

The fourth ‘DWEbinar’ session was held under the title “The Future of Work and Women” and featured Khalfan Belhoul, CEO of Dubai Future Foundation; Sophie Smith, co-founder and CEO of Nabta Health and was moderated by CNBC international correspondent, Dan Murphey.

Sophie Smith, co-founder and CEO of Nabta Health, highlighted that with the introduction of remote work technologies and models, both men and women were given increasingly flexible working options on a permanent basis.

“I believe that, in the long run, this will likely cause a redistribution of unpaid labour in a more balanced manner between both genders. That is why I believe that the automation of processes will help narrow the gap,” Smith said.

Smith then emphasised the importance of the reskilling and upskilling of both men and women. “In preparation for the 4IR, both men and men should upskill themselves and have access to the latest technologies. As more tasks are automated, the soft skills of employees need to find context and meaning in an increasingly digital world.”

Today, a lot of women are already taking up STEM courses but an evaluation must be done to understand how they take their STEM skills to their professional careers, she added.

“Despite comprising a large percentage of STEM graduates, women make up a small segment of those employed in professional STEM fields. We need initiatives to help ensure their contribution. We need to understand what the career prospects are for STEM graduates and explore what barriers women face specifically and the ways we can overcome them. Policies regarding flexible work models can help women transition from stem studies to STEM positions.”

Belhoul said he is confident that more women will play a role in the 4IR. “Currently, the tech industry and associated AI bias is very male-dominant. I am optimistic, however, when I look at the future requirements of future jobs and needs of industries. The need for problem-solving skills, empathy, emotional intelligence, as well as other soft skills will be of even greater importance over the next few years. These are skills that cannot easily be replicated by technology, and will work in favour of women,” he said.

Talking about how DWE initiatives work to encourage active participation in the future sustainable development of societies at large, Shamsa Saleh, CEO of DWE, added: “DWE’s 2021 strategic plan incorporates several programmes and initiatives which will fortify women’s contribution to the national ‘Towards the next 50’ plan, in line with the directives of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.”

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