The Gulf states have shown the way in encouraging women to take on graduation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics streams. The results are showing. Image Credit: Shutterstock

In our fast-paced world, STEM education — encompassing science, technology, engineering and mathematics — stands as a cornerstone of progress. It's the engine driving economies, powering groundbreaking discoveries and tech leaps.

With its influence spanning across industries, STEM education is essential for boosting productivity, enhancing competitiveness, and fostering prosperity. At its core, STEM education equips individuals with critical thinking, problem-solving, and analytical skills vital for navigating the complexities.

By imparting a deep understanding of scientific principles and mathematical concepts, it empowers individuals to confront real-world challenges head-on. From developing sustainable energy solutions to advancing medical breakthroughs, STEM-educated professionals are propelling economic growth through their expertise.

Despite its pivotal role, STEM fields grapple with gender inequality. Despite making up about 47 per cent of the total workforce globally, women are significantly underrepresented in STEM, with less than 30 per cent of the world's researchers being women. This disparity underscores the urgency of empowering girls and women to pursue STEM fields.

The under-representation begins early, influenced by societal norms, biases, and expectations that shape educational choices. Positive interventions, including parental encouragement and challenging stereotypes, are crucial for fostering girls' interest in STEM subjects.

According to a UNESCO report, only 35 per cent of STEM students in higher education globally are women. However, 57 per cent of STEM graduates in the MENA region are women, a figure that rises to 61 per cent in the UAE.

To put that into perspective, both of those figures are higher than those achieved in the US and Europe. A perfect example of this is Sarah Al-Amiri - the chair of the UAE Space Agency and Minister of State for Advanced Technology who, on February 9 2021, led Hope – the UAE's successful mission to orbit a satellite around Mars. Sarah's team – consisting of 80 per cent women – made UAE the fifth nation and first Arab nation to get their probe to orbit Mars.

Central to closing gaps

As we venture into the realm of emerging technologies like AI, robotics, and quantum computing, women's involvement becomes even more critical. Their unique perspectives and skills - such as multitasking, adaptability, and resilience - contribute to shaping the trajectory of tech advancements.

To address the gender gap and unlock the full potential of women in these fields, concerted efforts are needed from various stakeholders. This includes educators, industry leaders, governments, and society as a whole. Implementing robust programs aimed at early mentorship, recognizing female role models, and promoting STEM education is imperative for fostering a more inclusive and diverse workforce.

By building a strong foundation in STEM education and providing equal opportunities for all, we not only empower individuals but also pave the way for a more equitable future. It's not just about ensuring representation; it's about harnessing the talents and contributions of all individuals to drive innovation and shape a better world for generations to come.