Arab Women Techies and Gender Disparities

https://lb.boell.org/en/2014/03/03/female-arab-techies-meeting-statehood-participation

http://arabtechies.net/?q=node/84

http://www.firstpost.com/world/what-modis-selfie-with-the-women-techies-of-riyadh-says-about-his-relationship-with-the-oil-rich-kingdom-2715412.html

From reading some of the articles I got some mixed feelings regarding Arab Women Techie meetings. In the first article I read, the author mentions the controversy surrounding these techie meetings because of the lack of equal gender representation at each meeting. While I do believe that this is a valid point, I do find it important that there is a safe space for women, especially, to get very involved in technology and try to employ it for social, cultural, and political change. We read so many articles and statistics regarding disproportionally high representation of men in STEM professions as a result of the stigma against women’s capacity to excel in fields outside the humanities and social sciences. The meetings specifically designed for Arab Women Techies allow women to employ their skills with technology in order to advance larger societal goals. In this way these meetings break the distinctions that have historically divided STEM professions and the more humanitarian and socially oriented professions and instead intertwine them by promoting the use of technical skills to advance larger humanitarian goals.

In the second article I read, the author discussed how it is in fact a necessity to have these meetings restricted to women because unless techie meetings are exclusive to women, the predominant number of participants would be male. The article goes on to point out that while there is a significant number of women working in the ICT field in the Arab world, women are less likely to come forward to own and publicly acknowledge their ICT skills because a female’s work with technology is frequently underestimated. In the early meetings, the author notes that when the men that attended were asked to recommend other techies to come to future meetings, they almost never recommended women. This seriously testifies to the underestimation of women working in the technological industries and underscores the need for a safe space for women to be open about their skills and put them to productive use as a collective.

The third article I consulted added another interesting reason for the exclusivity of Techy meetings in Saudi Arabia specifically. The author points out that in Saudi Arabia the predominant religion prohibits the interaction between women and men outside the family. Precisely due to this prohibition, much discussion took place before Prime Minister Narendra Modi was able to visit the Arab Women Techy meetings which are “largely out of bound for males.” According to the article, Modi had many great things to say about the women he met at the meeting. Modi stated that women and the action they are taking through technology and web-based mediums can be a very beneficial force in the world at large.

 

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