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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 October 2018

UAE women's rights champion finding a formula for gender equality in the sciences

Hoda Al Khzaimi is aiming to empower women in science by assisting them with scholarships, resources, funding and a support network

Hoda Al Khzaimi is aiming to break down gender barriers and help women succeed in the sciences.
Hoda Al Khzaimi is aiming to break down gender barriers and help women succeed in the sciences.

The new president of a government-backed group set up to empower women working and studying in science and technology is on a mission to 'destroy gender barriers' in the UAE - and make knowledge accessible to all.

Hoda Al Khzaimi says she has had to overcome many hurdles in her career solely due to her gender, but she is determined to make the career path smoother for others in her role as the new president of Emirates Digital Association for Women.

The group, which is supported by the Ministry of Social Affairs, is a non-profit initiative geared towards empowering women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics)-related sectors, using ambassadors from universities, schools, government, ministries, banking, tech giants and social media firms as beacons of hope to those looking to make inroads into the world of work.

The association is working to ensure that researchers have all the equipment and funding they need, though being a junior researcher and a woman is tough in UAE, said Ms Al Khzaimi, who is the director of Center of Cyber Security at NYUAD.

"We wanted to make sure women have a better career path and choices in the field of research. We are working on programmes on women leadership. We should have local capacity and people who are competent to carry out research. We want to see good examples who can give back to the ecosystem," said Ms Al Khzaimi.

“I would love to place an international programme for our researchers. This programme would offer scholarships. If they need some funding, they can be supported. We are fundraising now.

“I want to contribute to conferences and send researchers with papers to these conferences. If researchers can’t afford to travel to conferences, we want to fund this. We want to provide internships for women from the Middle East across the globe so that they can get empowered. This will move them beyond academia,” she said.

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Ms Khzaimi’s idea is to build an innovation lab aimed at all age groups where people can learn or cultivate their minds, attend workshops or build a prototype.

“I face tremendous challenges within my field. We can destroy these gender barriers that exist and start by making sure researchers have an initial support systems. To get to being a senior researcher, you need support when you are a junior. You need to give people a chance to do research and build a resume,” she added.

The researcher hopes that soon academics would have the resources to travel and attend any conferences or hire someone for research, should they require it.

“We need to make sure that within every organisation, there is a critical support network. There are many organisations across the globe saying they support gender balance and payment equality. In reality, that’s not what is happening. My goal is to make knowledge accessible,” said Ms Al Khzaimi.