Mariam Al Harmoodi, 20, Emirati, computer engineer student, New York University Abu Dhabi
“My mother was a chemist and she later moved on to managerial positions and so that showed me that STEM was a good foundation for moving into different fields and becoming successful. I think for a lot of females, there is a fear of joining STEM courses because they believe this area is male-dominated and they won’t be equal. I myself had some rough experiences and needed time to settle – this wasn’t due to male peer pressure; on the contrary, my male professors were very supportive of me.
“The challenge was that I would enter a classroom and I would be the only girl there, and this created some self-doubt, but thanks to mentorships from my professors, I managed to find something that I was passionate about. I believe it’s also important for women like myself who are stufdying STEM subjects to share our experiences, to show that it is possible for women to enroll in STEM and be successful. By doing this we dispel the myth that this is a field for men only.”
Shaima Abdulla Al Mubarak Al Jneibi, 22, Emirati, technology, Zayed University
“I chose a major in technology, because I have always been fascinated with how computers work. When I was six years old, my sister taught me how to use a computer. My parents were very supportive of my choice of wanting to study in technology and they always attended my computer science competitions award ceremonies.
“I think more female students are pursuing STEM than before and that is based on what I saw during the computer science competitions I took part in. Nowadays, we see many women in the news who are in the STEM fields, and that encourages young women to want to be part of it. We need to encourage women to pursue their passion, and if it happens to be a STEM field then that’s great.”
Dr Deena Elsori, associate professor of biology, chair of Department of Applied Sciences and Mathematics at Abu Dhabi University
“Female representation depends on which area in STEM. In fact, my field as a biologist is female dominant, so the weight of expectation to perform is not gender driven, but rather based on merit. However, in engineering and physics for example it is definitely more male dominant.
“At our university, we constantly promote science majors during our visits to different high schools across the country, targeting female students, in addition to multiple annual recruitment campaigns and information sessions. Once they become part of our programmes, I select female students and place them on different scientific research projects, encouraging them to apply for grants, and publish their work. My driver for doing this is to ensure they bolster their profiles and strengthen their CVs which gives them a better career opportunity in the STEM area.
“Over the past nine years, I have noticed UAE’s push towards emphasising STEM education and research across all sectors, and there have been several key initiatives and campaigns launched successfully. I am thrilled to see women increasingly given opportunities and roles in important STEM organisations, such as Masdar, the UAE Space Programme, etc, and hopefully will be given even more room to shine and grow in the future.
“Promoting women in the workplace should be part of management’s annual key performance indicators in all corporations around the country. This will ensure that qualified females are given the right opportunities and generate equality in such gender-oriented fields like STEM.”