Arab Women Techies on the Rise

The first article I found during my research was a piece called How The Middle East is Solving the Gender Gap That Silicon Valley is Ignoring. In the article it stated how only 10 percent of all internet entrepreneurs are women, however women internet entrepreneurs in the Middle East and North Africa jump to 23 percent. That is higher than what I initially expected.it goes further saying as of 2012 in the Palestinian city of Gaza, forty startups have been launched and more than half are run by women. The article explains this as a result of the woman’s ability to stay home and complete household duties while also doing their work from home. It is also mentioned that since this is a new space, it is based more on meritocracy than gender. Essentially women from the Arab nations are creating their own jobs through the internet, despite the traditional cultural values upheld by these nations. This surge has not gone unnoticed around the world either. According to the article, companies such as Google, have made an effort to invest in these companies as an effort to increase women representation in the high tech industry. Not to come off as ignorant, I find it fascinating that a nation many in the west would consider “backwards” is one of the leaders in the world of women representation in the high tech field. This information was as of 2012, so it would be extremely interesting to me how these numbers have changed over the past couple of years. It would be amazing to learn that the percentage has actually increased since the publication of the article.
The second article I found builds on this a little more. TechGirls’ Program to Connect Techies From Vastly Different Cultures discusses how a new program through the U.S. Department of State plans to bring several teenage girls from the Middle East to Silicon Valley. I found it interesting how important Social Media and informational technologies are becoming in the Middle East. This truly sounds like a bigger movement than I previously imagined. A lot of these participants are getting international internship positions from big tech companies, however what I was glad to hear the most from this article is how these women are also going back to their home countries to lead or gain high positions in high tech companies. It would be interesting to gain more statistical data on the changing gender landscape of tech focused companies in the Middle East, to see if there is indeed an actual movement occurring in the region. The information from these sources point in the direction that the amount of women in this field are on the rise, and these articles are already a couple years old. In a few years the percentage of women in the Arab nations may see a dramatic rise in their role as leaders of high tech industries. So much so they may lead all other countries in representation when it comes to that field.

https://www.interexchange.org/articles/career-training-usa/2014/10/01/techgirls-program-to-connect-techies-from-vastly-different-cultures/

https://mic.com/articles/86521/how-the-middle-east-is-solving-the-gender-gap-that-silicon-valley-is-ignoring#.JPYb7dwdy

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One thought on “Arab Women Techies on the Rise

  1. https://www.recode.net/2017/1/10/14217762/startup-accelerator-gaza-sky-geeks-technology-silicon-valley

    Really interesting articles you chose! As you mentioned in your blog post, the first article by SLAY provides some great statistics on women in the tech work force. I was also kind of shocked by the numbers, the Middle East and North Africa region has 23% women internet entrepreneurs and in the Gulf it’s 35%, in contrast to 10% globally.

    Looking at the tech ecosystem in Gaza specifically, I found this 8-minute video from the Gaza Sky Geeks (GSG), also cited in the SLAY article. Gaza Sky Geeks is “the leading co-working space, startup accelerator, and technology education hub in Gaza,” focusing specifically on promoting diversity within tech spaces. In the video, Laila Abu Dahi and Mal Temraz, both Gazan engineers, discuss the process by which the #40Forward partner was able to integrate women into tech production from the onset. GSG used hackathons and start-up weekends to bring in a wider demographic of Gazan’s to their event. In the application process for the events, GSG committed to accepting 50% female, and 50% male applicants. Mal Temraz says, “if you want to have a more female inclusive community, you need to include more women.” And, what they found was that women beat the men in the start-up events in every single category.

    Between the two year gap between the articles you found, and the ones I was able to find online from Recode and Gaza Sky Geeks, it looks as though the female interest and participation in the tech ecosystem has continued to grow. A proponent of this increase in female activity in the tech space is international businesses such as Uber, Google, SoundCloud, and Microsoft (among “500” others). Instead of recruiting these developers for their own headquarters in the United States, these companies have been integral in allowing for the proliferation of female voices in internet entrepreneurship in Gaza. Because it doesn’t take as much capital in Gaza to create a start-up as it does in the United States, Arab women techies have a greater opportunity to pursue their ideas. The article in Recode states, “Entry-level software engineers command $100,000 to $150,000 a year in Silicon Valley, but less than $4,800 in Gaza.” Furthermore, Laila Abu Dahi and Mal Temraz added that Gazan women studying STEM at university has hit 50% as of September, 2016.

    In their presentation, the two discuss the cultural challenges women face in coming to work on the day to day. Briefly mentioned in the SLAY article, GSG began to provide women with monthly paychecks and weekly stipends. Because Gazan women lack the confidence to ask family members for money for transportation to and from work, women often missed work or dropped out of the GSG program. Furthermore, because these families feel that women belong in the house and not out late working, Gazan women are often culturally confined to private spaces. To combat these issues and validate the women’s jobs to their families, stipends, monthly paychecks, pre-organized transportation, and family engagement allowed Arab women techies to continue to work throughout the year.

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