Did you know that gender gaps in the STEM industry is only projected to close in the next 140 years in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA)? Putting these figures into perspective, it seems to be that we are all still far behind when it comes to achieving gender diversity and balance.
Nevertheless, the Global Gender Gap Index 2020 rankings show that the United Arab Emirates ranks 2nd within Middle Eastern and North African countries.
How is the gender gap in Middle East?
The World Economic Forum 2020 Gender Gap Report highlighted that even in countries where education attainment is relatively high like MENA, women’s skills are not always in line with those required to succeed in the professions of the future. In addition, they encounter barriers to employment in the most dynamic and in-demand occupations. Based on data from LinkedIn, women are underrepresented in five micro-clusters with the highest employment growth rate, namely:
- Project managers
- Data and artificial intelligence (AI)
- Cloud computing
Putting aside the possibility of unconscious bias, there is still plenty of room for improvement when it comes to balancing the gender gap in the STEM industry.
When women lead in STEM
- A fresh and balanced perspective in every business
Gender diversity in the workplace fosters innovation, strengthens your employee’s ability to meet your customers’ needs, and enhances overall performance.
Miona shared her thoughts, “some values that women can contribute with and bring to the table include the ability to build rapport and stimulate engaging conversations with both men and women in their markets. Building and maintain strong and personal relationships is key in all of our markets.”
- Healthier competition and drive in the workplace
With more women at board-levels together with men, the sharing of perspectives and values can also contribute to healthier competition within the team in the workplace. Females are naturally welcoming and caring by nature, which serves them well in building strong relationships with their candidates and clients. This helps develop a "mutual trust", according to Anastasia, which is built up via engaging in "conversations about personal and professional life, being genuine and being honest about what you think and feel." This in turn should make the client/candidate do the same.
Miona reinforced this statement by outlining how "as much as men are competitive, ambitious and driven, so are women". This results in a working environment centred around mutual respect and cooperation between the genders which ultimately should result in an "extremely determined, driven and hungry working environment for success," according to Miona. It also serves to drive healthy competition and empowerment.
Building the talent pipeline for women in STEM
Acknowledging that there is a gap is always the first step to any problem. When it comes to the world of STEM, women are in the minority. Currently, the World Economic Forum also highlighted that less than 30% of the world’s researchers are women and this under-representation occurs in every region in the world.
Nevertheless, in the Middle East, there has been strong drive to encourage more women to take up STEM education. According to UNESCO, 34-57% of STEM graduates in Middle Eastern countries are women, a figure much higher than that seen in universities across the US or Europe. The crucial next step for Middle Eastern countries is to translate these female STEM qualified graduates into employees and leaders within the industries of the future.
Words of advice from the women in SThree MENA
“2020 will be the year that women step up greatly more than they have done so far. That can encompass a rise in female headcount in organisations, higher ranked positions, level of responsibilities as well as greater representation of women throughout organisations in meetings, throughout social media as well as conferences for networking purposes.
My word of advice would be to put in the work, time, effort and energy, which will require sacrifices but eventually all be worth it. As women we are generally very independent and using that as a strength and fuel for success is something that will take you very far, utilise it to your advantage.”—Miona
|“I believe that we should assess individual characteristics, knowledge, experience and objectives, rather than just focussing on gender in a hiring process. What I can say is that due to the exorbitant amount of barriers women encounter to enter the Oil and Gas industry that I specialise in, we are more likely to work smarter and harder in order to keep our position in the company and further develop ourselves academically and professionally by acquiring necessary qualifications.”—Anna|
|“There is definitely a lack of female representation in Oil & Gas within UAE. Having more women in the team would definitely bring a more engaged workplace and better performance. I would advise women in the workplace to use their uniqueness to their advantage and never be shy to voice their opinion.” – Nargiza|
“Capitalising on the work they have done throughout their career and taking every opportunity that enhances their prospects. Samba Bank has a first female CEO which continues to raise the bar for women in the Middle East. I believe 2020 will be the year of female empowerment that will see women taking further leadership roles across the field.
Women should continue to persevere through hard work, determination and relentless strive towards becoming an irreplaceable part of any organisation.” – Anastasia
Breaking the glass ceiling in STEM
More women on boards contributes to diversity of thought, which leads to better decision making and greater performances in the organisation. Companies need to ensure that talent pipelining remains unbiased and that women feel supported when going for the top jobs. With a wealth of data showing that women are adept at mitigating risk and ensuring that the industry thrive, it is critical that STEM industries globally becomes less dominated by men.
At the dawn of the 2020s, building fairer and more inclusive economies must be the goal of global, national and industry leaders. How is your company engaging in diversity and inclusion this 2020 and beyond? Reach out to find out more on our diversity and inclusion strategies here at SThree.