x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Women encouraged to form work place associations

Women in the country's science and engineering sectors must have their own associations to keep them in the profession once they have broken into the traditionally male dominated fields, experts say.

ABU DHABI // Women in the country's science and engineering sectors must have their own associations to keep them in the profession once they have broken into the traditionally male dominated fields, experts say. In the US, the foundation of the Arab American Women's Business Council (AAWBC) was formed to meet the growing needs of Arab businesswomen, Jumana Judeh, one of the AAWBC's founders, told a major conference in the capital yesterday. She said they faced challenges such as pressure from family and society and in the wake of 9/11 they suffered further challenges in the workplace. "None of the Arab companies were servicing the needs of the Arab women. The Arab American businesswoman is different to the average Arab American woman," she told delegates at the Women in Science and Engineering conference. "They need a moral support network around them." From as early as university, women in the sectors still regarded as bastions for men, need to be mentored on entering the workforce and offered internship opportunities, she said. This is where associations can play a vital role, said Ms Judeh. Through these, women can take advantage of networking opportunities which they would otherwise not have access to. Her association is a case in point, proving a big success. "We've had a massive impact on science and engineering, encouraging the young college student that she can enter any field she wants and she's not alone. She has the support of our members to assist her when she enters male dominated fields to mentor her through." On top of this, the struggle for girls in the UAE is "much harder" than that of the Arab American, making services such as the AAWBC much more vital, said Ms Judeh. "The Arab girl wants to be a good daughter, mother, wife, but she has to be true to herself and fulfil her own needs or else it impacts on every other aspect of her life," she says. Ms Judeh, who was born in Palestine before moving to the US in 1970, says government leadership is vital in sending the message to the country's males and females that women in the workplace are of benefit to society. More than 200 leading women scientists, academics, industry researchers and government officials, many from the Mena region, including Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, the Minister of Foreign Trade, are attending the two-day conference, which finishes today. Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, Masdar chief executive, the clean energy firm, and Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Board of Trusteee of Masdar Institute, told the conference: "As leaders and critical thinkers, undoubtedly, women scientists and engineers across the Mena region there have a fundamental role to play." Dr al Qazmi, one of the faculty members at the university, says that it allows the students to have access to study materials, speakers and technical updates from experts around the world. As well as this, it gives them networking opportunities which can be crucial in areas such as career development, the organisation having 384,000 members around the world. The UAE is on course to have 40 per cent of its science and engineering jobs filled by women, a bigger proportion than the US. Currently, the UAE's figure stands at about 25 per, compared to between 15 and 20 per cent in the US but with rising numbers of engineering students across the country, this will soon be reflected in the workplace. mswan@thenational.ae