ABU DHABI // Recognising the small number of women pursuing engineering careers, Al Hosn University has established a society to encourage female participation in the field. The Society of Women in Engineering is open to all female engineers, female engineering students and women in any engineering-related field. It aims to provide a forum to exchange views, to help female engineers find jobs and training through a database and networking, and to collaborate with other women's groups.
In some cases, only a fifth of the students in engineering courses are women, with numbers particularly low in civil engineering. But the society's founders say the number is increasing as attitudes towards female engineers change. In the past "people were a bit conservative", said Fatima al Jaber, the society's president and the chief operating officer of Al Jaber Group. She said there were only two other female engineers when she began working as an engineer for the Abu Dhabi Government more than 20 years ago. When she left three years ago to join her family firm, there were more than 30.
"The numbers are massive," she said. "It's a magnificent change." The society's vice president, Dr Reem Sabouni, an assistant professor at Al Hosn University and a civil engineer herself, noted that women were still discouraged from civil engineering and industrial engineering. "These sound more harsh," she said, but added that one of the society's goals was to show that women could be engineers and explore these possibilities. "Females and males have the same ability to study from a technical point of view," she said. "Both can handle it."
Alia Mohammed, a teaching assistant in civil engineering at Al Hosn University and a founding member of the society, argued that civil engineers could work in a variety of environments, not just construction sites. "They can be in the office or laboratory or in research," she said. Most people, she said, were encouraging when she decided to pursue an engineering career because of her enthusiasm for physics, mathematics and drawing.
Prof Abdul Sabouni, vice chancellor and chief executive of Al Hosn University, said women had better career prospects in engineering than in some other fields. "She will have a better chance of faster promotion because the number of women engineers is small compared with some other professions such as education," he said. "For the community there's a great advantage in activating half of society in a very important way."
The engineering society was launched this week at a ceremony on the university's male campus. Officials hope to have 50 members by the end of the year, among them engineers engaged in research. Al Hosn University, a private institution that opened in 2005, is owned by Abu Dhabi Holding Company and offers several bachelor's and master's degrees in engineering. email@example.com