Since its inception, the UAE has supported women who pursue higher education and join the workforce. The late Sheikh Zayed, the founding father, stressed that “all fields of work are open for women in the Emirates, just like men”. However, for a number of reasons, including cultural ones, women have been underrepresented in the workforce in general and especially so in fields related to science and technology. The good news is that this is beginning to change.
Universities in the UAE are ahead of the curve internationally in terms of the number of female students. According to the Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Centre for Cultural Understanding, women represent 70 per cent of the total number of graduates in the UAE – among the highest worldwide. More than 70 per cent of Emiratis now studying in federal higher education institutions are women. And, as The National reported yesterday, Khalifa University is well ahead of many UK and US institutes in terms of female representation in engineering, especially the emerging field of robotics.
As Prof Tod Laursen, the university president, said, these women are studying with the full support of their families. He notes that the field of robotics is considered prestigious and that this is an important factor in family approval. But the significance of women’s high representation in this field can hardly be overstated: it is cutting edge and one in which developments can make a real difference to people’s lives. That is why its practitioners are in great demand. Already, female students and postgraduates at Khalifa University are working on robotic arms with potential search-and-rescue capabilities, and smart cameras that could help detect colon cancer.
However, often enough female graduates do not get the chance to use their specialised skills for long. Some may leave to raise families soon after they join the workforce and some of them may not work at all. The challenge will be to convert their aptitude for, and excellence in, academic study into jobs that will help build a knowledge economy. Everyone is needed.
Via: The National