Dr Mariam Ketait (left) and Farha Albreiki
Dr Mariam Ketait (left) and Farha Albreiki Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: Emirati women are increasingly at the forefront of efforts to deploy the power of artificial intelligence (AI) in improving our lives, be it for customising public services or fighting climate change.

But, globally, are women’s contributions in this emerging field being recognised equally as their male counterparts?

Gulf News spoke with three Emirati women from Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence in Abu Dhabi (MBZUAI) about their projects’ impact on the AI sector and gender parity.

Dr Mariam Ketait, global accelerators and innovation regional lead at Boeing - and a recent graduate MBZUAI Executive Programme (MEP) - is “incredibly enthusiastic” about the transformative changes AI can bring to “a more advanced and efficient era of aviation”.

“The potential of AI to revolutionise various aspects of the business, from aircraft maintenance and safety enhancements to predictive analytics for operational efficiency, is truly exhilarating,” she said. 
Dr Ketait’s background as a practicing family doctor and in government has also allowed her to see AI’s potential in many other areas of society, particularly in philanthropy.

“Participating in MEP greatly enriched my understanding of data-driven decision-making in philanthropy. Through machine learning algorithms, we are able to analyse donor preferences and tailor engagement strategies, resulting in higher donor retention rates and increased contributions.

“This application of AI not only advances our philanthropic initiatives but also demonstrates the potential for technology to drive positive social impact. The cross-industry exchange of ideas [during MEP] provided a unique opportunity to learn from different strategies and practices, fostering creativity and adaptability.”

Addressing ‘unconscious biases’

Dr Ketait has a clear overview of the challenges that women face in sectors that are traditionally male-dominated.

“Being a woman in the tech sector has been both challenging and rewarding,” she said.

“I believe there is a need for continued efforts to create inclusive environments, promote equal opportunities for women in leadership roles, and address unconscious biases. Employers can play a significant role by implementing mentorship programmes, fostering a culture of respect, and actively promoting gender equality.

"Ultimately, I hope to see a tech sector where women’s contributions are valued equally and where diverse perspectives drive innovation and growth.”

Women’s council

Farha Albreiki, who graduated with a Master of Science in Machine Learning from MBZUAI in June, is keen to be part of the solution and is a member of TRANSCO Women Working Group (TWWG), which is driven by TAQA Women’s Council.

The group aims to enable the development of women in the transmission sector, and champion equity, diversity, and inclusion.
Farha is already applying some aspects of her AI knowledge and skills in her role as a power project engineer at Abu Dhabi Transmission and Despatch Company (TRANSCO), part of TAQA.

“My learning at MBZUAI paved the way to involve myself in projects that are related to AI and data analysis for forecasting and prediction purposes,” she said.

“The degree and the education I received distinguished me from my colleagues with the same background. My skills helped me to ask the right questions, which will improve the integration of the solution being built and ensure that it is what we are seeking as a long-term AI solution.”

‘Countless possibilities’

Another Emirati woman at MBZUAI is Nouf Alshamsi, who is studying for a master’s in computer vision and is fascinated by the transformative possibilities that emerge at the “crossroads of different disciplines”.

Alshamsi joined MBZUAI in 2022 after completing a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering at United Arab Emirates University (UAEU). Her current research tracks algorithms for thermal and daylight imaging in remote areas, a specialisation that has numerous practical applications as diverse as wildlife monitoring, and search and rescue operations.

“I was drawn to this field because it could revolutionise our interactions with technology and our environment,” she said.

“Creating intelligent systems that can process visual information and make decisions opens doors to countless possibilities. The intersection of computer vision, AI, and remote sensing intrigued me, as it promises to create previously unimaginable solutions.”

Alshamsi, describing her experience at MBZUAI, added: “One of the highlights of my experience is gaining the ability to approach AI challenges from a holistic perspective, including considering how AI can be integrated across different domains.

“By addressing complex problems and automating routine tasks, human resources can be directed toward creative and strategic endeavours that can reshape the world.”