All-women affair. The winning team at last year’s Women in STEM hackathon, which has since become a coveted platform for aspiring entrepreneurs Image Credit: Supplied

ABU DHABI Ever heard of smart cities for women? Well, a group of tech-savvy women will be exploring their limitless possibilities at a unique all-women hackathon to be held in the UAE next month.

A platform for wannabe tech-entrepreneurs and innovators from across the region, the hackathon provides them with an opportunity to realise their start-up dreams or tap their coding potential. The two-day event is being organised by the Meera Kaul Foundation, an advocate for gender equality, at Dubai’s Astrolabs on February 19 and 20.

High enrolment

Sana Odeh of the Arab Women in Computing at New York University in Abu Dhabi, who will be the judge at the second Women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) hackathon, said, “We aim to support and encourage consistency in the involvement and status of Arab women in computing from the various computing/technology sectors which include academia, industry and entrepreneurship, as well as provide them with opportunities to achieve their career goals and aspirations at large.”

She said statistics go to show that there has been a positive growth in terms of women’s enrolment in technology-related fields in the Arab world and also a positive trend in Arab women launching companies. “In terms of women studying computer science in the Arab world, our preliminary research indicates women’s participation is close to 40 per cent or more compared to 15-20 per cent in the US. In countries like the UAE and Saudi Arabia, it even reaches 70 per cent.”

STEM careers

Meera Kaul of the Meera Kaul Foundation said the hackathon aims to encourage more women to opt for careers in STEM. “By investing in this 48-hour hackathon, we aim to provide a platform to encourage more women to opt for STEM careers. We believe that women should play a part in designing the world they live in. Hence, this year’s theme will focus on ‘smart cities for women’, giving them a chance to incorporate their innovative tech talent into building smart cities that are women-friendly.”

Ahmad Abugosh learning and development manager at AstroLabs Dubai, said: “The region compared to other parts of the world has more women in tech start-ups participating as a percentage based on the programmes we’ve seen, even in comparison to Silicon Valley. In this scenario, our main endeavour, being the only Google partnered tech hub in the MENA region, is to provide a vibrant space for like-minded tech enthusiasts and a community network of support through our mentorship programme.”

HACKATHON REGISTRATIONS

Registrations for the all-women hackathon have been open since January 5. Participants can register either as individuals or as teams. On-site team formation is also being encouraged to allow participants to meet new people and collaborate with those who may have different skill sets. Winners will receive incubation support as well as mentorship opportunities facilitated by the Meera Kaul Foundation, along with other prizes.