Tech has traditionally been a male-dominated industry. This certainly isn’t due to a lack of female talent, but rather that the industry has always been led by men.

As women, we must admit that in our younger years that it is quite uncommon for our parents or teachers to influence us into pursuing a career in tech or IT. This ordinarily means that as we grow up, and become more exposed to the working world, we are often phased by the industry due to lack of exposure to it in our formative years. 

From a personal perspective, being a woman in a “man’s world” has never really been a struggle. Despite that, it’s no secret that the majority of key decision makers I deal with are men. I do, however, believe that from a creative and emotional standpoint that there is no denying that women bring a lot to the industry.

Women tend to have a natural finesse, making them more cognizant of other individuals’ needs. One thought I often ponder on is that a team of male engineers for instance would always benefit from having a woman present to act as the “glue” in any operation.

According to a report by Kaspersky, the number of women in senior IT or technology roles in organizations has increased over the past two years.

What is needed now is for the pace of this change to be accelerated and for regional tech operators to champion gender diversity as a priority. The good news is that we see this happening in the Middle East.

However, women today carry a heavier load than they did a year ago. Many people were struggling to balance their careers with the pandemic’s unexpected increase in domestic and childcare responsibilities. In these pressing times, women in technology call for help more than ever.

According to the TrustRadius 2021 Women in Tech Report, which surveyed over 450 tech workers — 66 percent of whom identified as women — the key concern raised by women in tech was the need to put in more effort than their male counterparts to show their worth. It also found that 39 percent of women in IT feel that gender discrimination will be a barrier to progress in 2021.

We’re making some great strides as we proceed. For example, 23,000 Emirati businesswomen are running projects worth over AED50 billion ($13.6 billion) in the UAE.

In Saudi Arabia, women’s participation rate in the IT sector rose from 11 percent in 2017 to 24 percent in 2021, higher than Silicon Valley by 8 percent.

This is something that one would have thought impossible just a few years ago, and I am so proud to see it happen while I navigate the industry myself.

There is an astonishing number of women taking up science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects in Saudi universities. This rise gives women across the country a push to explore different career paths.

Dr. Hala Al-Tuwaijri, head of the G20 Women’s Empowerment team, said Saudi Arabia had three central focuses: Human empowerment, the Earth’s sustainability and implementing new horizons, but women’s empowerment is at the core of them all.

“After a recent surge in spending on women’s training, Saudi women currently make up 40 percent of digital entrepreneurs,” Tuwaijri said. This increase shows an enormous level of growth from Saudi Arabia.

The Kingdom aims to increase women’s participation in the labor market while the Saudi Ministry of Communications and Information Technology strategizes on how it can enhance the role of women in the sector. 

The ministry has developed an integrated program to empower women in the communications and IT sector.

Deemah, a leading woman in Saudi Arabia’s tech industry, has already set foot in crafting the initiatives that the ministry will support. The “Women Spark” initiative has assisted countless young women in acquiring the skills they need to succeed in the industry. With such initiatives emerging, women have a higher potential to succeed faster.

There is immense talent among female graduates in IT. Last year, 64 percent of the Kingdom’s IT graduates were women.

Although Saudi Arabia encourages young women to study technology, their sustainability in this career has been a predominant issue. While many women study these fields, they drift away from them once they graduate.

The absence of women involved in STEM — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — is of utmost concern in many countries. In Arab countries, 34 to 57 percent of STEM graduates are women, according to the UN.

In Saudi Arabia, 59 percent of students enrolled in computer science courses are women, while the figures for the UK and US were 16 percent and 14 percent respectively. But despite the strong representation of women in STEM courses, the Middle East is doing much better than other regions.

In 2017, only 11 percent of cybersecurity in the Middle East were women. Now this number has increased to about 20 percent, according to several speakers at the upcoming Gulf Information Security Expo and Conference.

As my interest in the subject of women in IT is growing, I recently found a few statistics that gave me hope and made me smile.

According to a Saudi Education Ministry survey conducted on social media, 80 percent of Saudi girls were interested in studying STEM, 60 percent of science graduates in Saudi are women and one-third of startups in the Arab world are led or founded by women.

It’s a real pleasure to see the Middle East gain more female talents in previously male-led industries. I’m looking forward to seeing where this takes us in the next few years. I believe that women have a lot to bring to the table, and I’m excited to meet our future female leaders in the sector.

  • Siham Berrached is the managing director of Emakina Qatar


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Siham Berrached