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UAE: Young women urged to pursue active role in STEM fields – wknd.

Tuesday, Mar 08, 2022 | Sha'ban 05, 1443
Published: Mon 7 Mar 2022, 5:42 PM
Young women need to take a more active role in pursuing careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), as these fields will play a key role in shaping the economies of the future, experts have said.
Speaking to Khaleej Times, several female scientists and researchers highlighted why engaging and recognising the achievements of women in science is crucial. According to the latest UNESCO Science Report published in June 2021, although the number of women in scientific careers is increasing, reaching just over 33 per cent of researchers worldwide, this evolution is still too slow.
Dr Nura Adam Mohamed, whose research is focused on developing non-conventional, novel therapeutic tools to prevent the development of diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular diseases, explained that when women in the scientific field are empowered with the required tools, they can play a pivotal role in the advancement of the field.
“But, that is not always the case because they often face many internal and external challenges,” she said.
“These challenges include limiting social stereotypes, work-related stress, and work-life imbalances that restrict them to certain workplaces. Despite of all these challenges they still manage to progress and make incredible differences that are worth celebration and recognition.”
The development of the research field is accompanied by a noticeable improvement in the status of women, as today’s researchers are surrounded by strong female scientists, she noted.
“The presence of women scientists in decision-making positions has helped create flexible working times, and women-friendly management policies, and all of these factors have helped create an appropriate research environment that helps increase women’s performance in the field of the scientific research. Interestingly, the current pandemic has shed light on the amount of sacrifices, and the tremendous effort working females exhibit to lead successful careers and lives.”
Gulf women, she added, have achieved “remarkable successes” in various fields, including the field of scientific research.
These gains have enabled them to make remarkable progress in the status of women in the Arab world as a whole, and to participate as an effective partner in consolidating and building the field of scientific research.
Mohamed’s insights were shared by Dr Hend Alqaderi, whose research revolves around the use of oral fluids as a non-invasive diagnostic tool for early diagnosis and the disease management of Covid-19 and other inflammatory diseases.
“I strongly believe that engaging women in science is crucial, as women can bring unique perspectives to research and scientific conversations. Some issues affect women more than men, so women have a distinctive motivation to research these issues and are well-positioned to find solutions. However, we have to acknowledge that the proportion of women pursuing careers in STEM in the Middle East is significantly lower than men.”
The field is full of challenges for men and women, but it is even harder for women, she explained. “Studies show that female workers have to work considerably harder than their male coworkers to get noticed. Too few women in science are reaching the top of their organisations, and a big reason is that they are not getting the high-stakes assignments that make them eligible for promotions. So, instead of climbing the ladder, they either stagnate in their positions or quit their jobs. We need powerful leaders who are willing to sponsor women in STEM and ensure that they get these stepping-stone jobs and are recognised for their contributions.”
Recent evidence has shown that societies with greater gender equality offer better socio-economic opportunities for women and tend to grow faster, reduce poverty, and increase environmental sustainability and innovation.
“Women have a strong interest in resolving key global issues,” Alqaderi said. “Therefore, having women at the table is crucial to finding solutions. That is why taking gender into account matters when developing and implementing policies and strategies. It is more important than ever to place women at the heart of global policy making to consider all of the global issues from women’s perspectives.”
She stressed that companies with greater gender diversity in leadership are significantly more profitable than those without women. “Strong evidence shows that women are often strong communicators, which leads to enhanced positive conversations with employees and partners, contributing to a cooperative and even family-like feeling to the team and work environment. Studies also show that women leaders can provide better mentorship and coaching young talent. Finally, and most importantly, women in leadership roles will advocate for other women and close the pay gap, which is still an issue in most countries.”
Arij Yehya, whose research is centred around identifying factors that drive the widening of the gender gap in personality traits, pointed out that young individuals usually look up to those who they know about. They also become even more inspired when they learn about the journey of successful people. In science, it is the same, she said.
“The more young people are exposed to successful women in STEM, the more they will be inspired to pursue this field,” she said. “More so, knowing the specific types of research currently recognised among stakeholders might aspire young women to build on these topics in an effort to bring creative ideas and make ground-breaking discoveries in these important matters. The key component to help build on current human knowledge is by being passionate about science. Luckily, many women are indeed inspired by their scientific field. Hence, they are highly likely to advance scientific fields in an effort to contribute to key global issues.”
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Like Mohamed and Alqaderi, she noted that women bring an important perspective to key issues in our current world. This perspective comes from their successful careers, scientific knowledge, discoveries and even their social roles in the community. These lead to better decision making on key issues. “For example, the world is currently experiencing the pandemic. During these unprecedented times, many women lost their jobs because of the recession of the economy, or quit to take care of their loved ones, or even had to take on the new roles. All these experiences of women around the world can bring an important perspective and guide decision-making to creating new and improved policies that lead our societies to a better future.”
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