International Women’s Day is marked today, 8th March 2020. The day offers an opportunity to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities.
Around the world, views on female participation in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics can still differ. But with support and encouragement, more and more women are making their mark in these areas.
Qatar Foundation’s (QF) edutainment reality TV show ‘Stars of Science’, which, every year, inspires hundreds of ambitious young men and women across the Arab world to put their innovative technologies to the test.
Across its previous seasons, Stars of Science has seen 29 female innovators compete for the title of best Arab innovator. Among them is Dr Nour Majbour, an associate researcher at Qatar Biomedical Research Institute (QBRI), part of QF’s Hamad Bin Khalifa University. She claimed second place in Season 10 of Stars of Science.
The obstacles that can prevent women from pursuing careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics were highlighted in the ‘Science Report: Towards 2030’, produced by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. It indicated that a lack of awareness about what such careers involve has led to a lack of women leaders in this area, while a scarcity of suitable jobs can also hinder women.
Walaa Aniba, from Tunisia, lost a friend in an accident that claimed her life several years ago. She decided to channel her pain into helping others and reducing accidents through her Smart and Safe Headphones, which automatically stop music playing in cars when a risk is detected.
Female innovator Jenan Al Shehab, who is from Kuwait and was one of the participants in the second season of Stars of Science, faced challenges at the beginning of her career but was able to overcome them. “We have a lot of female entrepreneurs and business owners in the Arab region, and I don’t believe any obstacle for women to enter the scientific fields exists,” she said.
“Although many challenges may face us as women, by adhering to our dreams and insisting on following them, we can achieve them. At the beginning of my business journey, I noticed that it was almost impossible, as it was very difficult to get a workshop for my own to develop my invention, as it contains many heavy equipment, and when I met a group of consultants they advised me to search for an easier job or home project.
“It is difficult to change the ideas of society in a short period, and it may not be that there is a complete acceptance by society of the presence of women in scientific fields, but today we are witnessing a clear change, and this in itself is an encouraging and supportive trend.” she said.