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Heriot-Watt University Dubai hosted Dr Eng. Suaad Al Shamsi as part of the celebrations for International Women in Engineering Day (INWED) to honour and encourage female participation in the field of engineering. INWED was launched for the first time in the UK on June 23, 2014 by the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) to celebrate its 95th anniversary.

Commenting on her participation, Dr Eng. Suaad Al Shamsi, who has worked on some of the biggest aviation projects in the UAE till date, said, “It was a pleasure to celebrate the success of young female engineers in the UAE in collaboration with Heriot-Watt University Dubai. Despite the progress that has been made in the past few decades, women are still underrepresented in STEM fields. Therefore, I think it is very important to encourage young women embarking on this journey.

"I am indebted to the support I was given by the UAE government and the mentors who guided me along the way. I believe educational institutions have a critical role to play in empowering young girls and teaching them that the sky is the limit no matter what sort of career they choose to pursue.”

Dr Rula Sharqi, Assistant Professor for the school of Engineering and Physical Sciences at Heriot-Watt University Dubai added, “It was an honor to host Dr Eng. Suaad Al Shamsi on this day. Her journey is a shining example of how much women can achieve when they believe in themselves and have the right institutional support. As a global University, we have a responsibility to be cognizant of social disparities and underrepresentation and take tangible steps to overcome them.

"As a result, we today have incredibly talented and ambitious female students pursuing engineering degrees. It is our priority to make sure they are equipped with the knowledge and skills to succeed in the future, empower them to pursue their dreams and play a role in ensuring equal representation of women in STEM workplaces.”

The INWED programme included networking opportunities, photobooth and video recording sessions as well as a tour of the engineering labs. The University also organized various panel discussion tackling topics including challenges in future industry developments, women’s creativity and added value, women to men ratio in the engineering industry and why women should choose engineering as a career.

As the first Emirati female aviation engineer, Dr Eng. Suaad Al Shamsi shared details of her journey including challenges faced, with aspiring female engineers who were also present. Also present were Dr. Shetha Al_Zubaidi, CEO at Brookson Project Management; Dr. Hagir Hakim, Associate Professor and Senior Director of Studies in the School of Energy Geoscience Infrastructure and Society at Heriot-Watt University Dubai; Tanishi Mathur - Business Analyst in the AI and Data Department at Deloitte; Liliana Calderón Jerez - MSc in Renewable Energy Engineering student at Heriot-Watt University Dubai.

Right from childhood, Dr Eng. Suaad Al Shamsi was fascinated by airplanes and curious about mechanics and ways to fix things. She earned an MBA with a double major in aviation management and aeronautical engineering from Coventry University in the UK. She is also the founder of the Middle East chapter of Women in Aviation, a non-profit association dedicated to encouraging women in the Middle East to seek opportunities in the aviation industry.

According to UNESCO, 34-57 per cent of STEM graduates in Arab countries are women. However, this does not translate to representation in the workforce as studies show low rates of female participation in these fields. As such, observance days like INWED aim to counter the underrepresentation of women through raising awareness, empowering women, and facilitating their contribution to the field.