As the UAE strives to bolster the manufacturing sector, Emirati and expat women engineers are proving their mettle at the workplace by shouldering responsibilities, earning their place and respect too.
As the country celebrates International Women in Engineering Day on June 23, women engineers who have broken through the glass ceiling at different entities of the state-run military contractor EDGE Group, share their experiences with Khaleej Times. Here's what they said.
Salama Al Dhaheri, design engineer, ADASI
Salama always wanted to be an engineer and work on the leading edge of advanced technology.
“Being an engineer means you are tasked with creating and innovating each and every day. This career provides meaningful solutions to problems involving climate change, health and so much more. By pursuing a career in engineering, you open up the potential to make meaningful contributions to individuals and communities locally, nationally, and beyond.”
Her job at ADASI, an end-to-end solution provider within the autonomous systems industry, is to find innovative ways to modify existing products that provide new functions and meet clients’ operational requirements.
Salama thrives at the workplace with her problem-solving skills.
“Throughout my education, I have learned that good problem-solving skills are necessary for an engineering career. Problem-solving skills support the overall development of solutions. Without these skills, engineers will run into more challenges and barriers. Innovation and curiosity go hand-in-hand when it comes to succeeding in the engineering field, and I have found that this, paired with a passion for what I do, allows me to do my best.”
Salama is proud to see her design being manufactured and used on aircraft.
“I worked closely on Garmoosha, the first UAE-made VTOL unmanned aerial vehicle that was designed and built at ADASI. I worked on designing installation brackets and support tools so to see the product succeed is a major achievement for me.”
She urges more women to enter the engineering field.
“Recruiting more female engineers can improve the design of new products and solutions to benefit both men and women. Women engineers are needed as role models to inspire more girls to study science and technology-based subjects and foster a new generation of technical professionals. It is important for us to engage with girls from a young age to ensure they grow up knowing that both boys and girls have a place in STEM subjects.”
Janine de Wet, mechanical design engineer, design and specification department, HALCON
Janine’s passion for aviation from a young age drew her to the engineering field
“Once I was in the field, I realised how exciting it was to be part of innovative projects, solve engineering problems and see your designs come to life. I also wanted to prove to myself and others that you can do anything you put your mind to and be an example to other females that want to become engineers.”
And Janine chose to join the defence industry as she aimed to be at the forefront of advancements in innovation, technology and design.
“Working for an advanced technology company that is constantly looking for new and exciting projects that challenge engineers is thoroughly gratifying. From an engineer’s perspective, it provides the required space to enhance our skills and capabilities.”
On challenges of being a female engineer in a male dominated field, she said: “Being a minority in any situation comes with its own challenges and perhaps there is more to prove. Overcoming the challenge of being a female engineer in a male-dominated environment can take time. Once you show what you have to offer, get involved in projects and get your hands dirty where required, the respect will fall into place.”
Janine, who has been part of various industries and started her own business, stressed that it’s time that the perception that engineering is a male-dominated field gets changed.
“Gender is not a factor when becoming an engineer. Women have everything it takes – intelligence, ability to build relationships and to take the initiative. I would definitely encourage women to become engineers. It is a tough field but being a part of it is highly rewarding. The result of your hard work is directly seen when a project comes to fruition,” said Janine, who became an engineering manager at the age of 26. “In five years from now, I hope to have advanced in my current company to a position of leadership and management and to strengthen my engineering design capabilities in defence.”
Khasaiba Obaid Al Remeithi, architectural engineer, AL TAIF
Khasaiba underlined that engineering is a very exciting profession that allows you to innovate, be creative and challenge yourself. “It is a great outlet for the imagination, and the perfect career for independent thinkers. I always encourage women to enter this field, especially if they have an inquisitive nature, excellent problem-solving skills, and pay great attention to detail.”
She said that the fields of mechanical or electrical engineering are still dominated by men, but they are becoming increasingly popular among women too.
“In my opinion, it is related to the cultural expectation and belief that engineering is a ‘hard science’ and therefore it is more suitable to men. For the most part, women tend to choose arts and softer sciences. I chose engineering because in this profession, we are constantly changing the world with inventions and solutions that affect everyone's lives. I studied Architectural Engineering as it is the only field which includes both science and art,” said Khasaiba, who has been working at AL TAIF for nine years as an architectural engineer focusing on maintaining premises and designing new facilities that meet the evolving needs of the organisation and its employees.
A mother of five children, Khasaiba pointed out that maintaining a personal-professional balance can be done by setting priorities.
“For me, those priorities are always my family and work. Being organised and practising time management is a must. In addition, it helps to delegate tasks that can be handled by other people.”
She was awarded a scholarship to do her masters at Masdar Institute in collaboration with Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “I completed my master’s in engineering system and management. A key moment in my career was meeting globally renowned architect Adrian Smith who designed the world's tallest structure, the Burj Khalifa. I had the privilege of working closely with his firm on a great project too,” she said about the different opportunities that come along the way in her job.
Alyazia Alshamsi, systems engineer, HALCON
Alyazia was attracted to engineering because it allows her to find solutions to technological issues.
“I have the opportunity to contribute in creating new technologies, products and develop solutions that will improve the UAE. The job never gets boring or repetitive because working in the engineering field constantly presents new challenges.”
She noted that working at EDGE gives her the opportunity to contribute in developing defence systems that implement advanced technologies such as autonomous systems and artificial intelligence. Her role involves assisting in the research, analysis, system specifications and testing responsibilities related to design, development and integration.
“The challenges that we face as engineers are keeping up with the rapid growth of technology on a global scale. Overcoming these challenges takes a passionate and innovative mindset with a focus on developing emerging and disruptive technologies.”
According to reports, some women decide to leave their field, especially engineering, to pursue other careers. Asked about this trend, Alyazia disagreed that gender plays a role in such decisions to switch or leave jobs.
“There are definitely some challenges for a woman pursuing a career in a male dominated field. Engineering is a tough job. However, people will have different reasons for leaving the engineering field to pursue other careers. Reasons that may not necessarily be tied to gender. In my opinion, engineering can be a physically demanding job, which may be overwhelming for some.”
Alyazia pointed out that it was important for women to not be hindered by restrictions in the engineering field based on gender.
“If a woman decides to go into the field of engineering, she must be allowed to do so. I encourage more women to enter the engineering field. Engineers are artists in their own right. As an engineer, you have the ability to be creative, learn new things every day and contribute in the design of products and tools that will enhance the way people live,” said Alyazia, who has done her master’s in systems engineering and management.
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