In the United Arab Emirates, women are promoted in the MINT subjects (mathematics, computer science, natural sciences and technology). They play an important role in science, but still encounter obstacles. We showcase local success stories as part of the L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women In Science Young Talents Awards and show how women are helping to advance the region.
Arab women play a crucial role in the development of scientific research and innovation across the Middle East. Figures from UNESCO show that up to 57% of science, technology, engineering and mathematics graduates in Arab countries are women, while in the United Arab Emirates 61% of STEM students are female.
Still, Alexandra Palt, L'Oréal's Chief Corporate Responsibility Officer and CEO of Fondation L'Oréal, says women scientists face different obstacles at every stage of their careers. She told Euronews: "We see women dropping out at different stages of their scientific careers (…) It may be that the environment, the parents, the family, the teachers are discouraging if it goes on like this. There is gender bias . There is discrimination."
To raise awareness and promote the achievements of women scientists, the L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women In Science Young Talents Middle East and North Africa Awards ceremony was held at EXPO 2020 Dubai this year. The achievements of 14 Arab women scientists from the Middle East and North Africa were recognized, two of whom came from the United Arab Emirates. They were recognized for their research and discoveries in the fields of photonics and organ transplantation.
dr Ghasa Dushaq, one of the awardees from the UAE, said: "It is an area that requires a lot of patience. The type of research we do is very specific and requires a lot of resources and a lot of commitment from us. In the United Arab Emirates there are many universities that offer us the right environment for our research work."
Arab women are increasingly entering the medical sector, accounting for at least 35% of Dubai's healthcare workforce. Emirati winner Halima Alnaqbi stated: "I am an Emirati woman in science. I was encouraged to pursue my degree in a STEM subject and I was also encouraged to pursue a research career by the government and various mentors at my university ."
Women in the UAE are fast becoming pioneers and leaders in this field, and support from the government and Dubai's business communities, such as Dubai Science Park, will continue to be crucial.
The Covid-19 pandemic is also affecting science and the role of women in the UAE and Dubai is more important than ever. Another example of women's contribution to science is the UAE's Emirates Mars Mission, which launched from Dubai. Women made up 34% of the mission and 80% of the entire science team.
Sarah Al Amiri, UAE Minister of State for High Technology and Chair of the UAE Space Agency, was one of the speakers for the International Day of Women and Science at EXPO 2020 Dubai. She said: "I've had the privilege of working with remarkable women, particularly on the Emirates Mars Mission science team. They weren't there for the quota, but because we create a level playing field. The best people for _the job_b have worked on the mission , because you can't make any compromises during development."
Increasing global recognition and awareness through platforms such as the L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women In Science Young Talents Program and the UAE's continued commitment to women through increased opportunities, both professionally and within government, is helping to transform the region in all develop areas.