By Meera Kaul, Chairperson at The Meera Kaul Foundation
It is a known struggle that stepping into a male dominated industry can definitely be challenging for women in the field of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). So it’s definitely time we address and eventually progress to solve this imbalance.
Even if the world we live in sets parameters for what women should pick as a career, it should not be a reason for women to hold back from exploring their passion for STEM. Today’s woman has the capacity to choose a STEM career and not to “settle” for gender-neutral job roles. In fact, nothing should lead women to think twice about fighting for their rights; even in the workplace, and that means voicing of opinions and sharing of dialogue to generate ideas. Today’s woman is confident and she comes with a plan.
More women in the MENA region are choosing STEM subjects at the under-graduate and graduate levels. But this in itself is not enough to prove that STEM fields have as many opportunities for women as they hold for men. What matters most is that young women are given platforms to train so that they can exhibit their talents and nurture their passion for STEM-related fields. I believe hackathons liberate women in ICT and science-related careers because they provide ideal environments for tech enthusiasts to engage in innovative design generation. They provide a fun, informative, and supportive platform for women to increase their ‘voice’ in STEM fields.
Hackathons empower tech women by providing opportunities to put their coding skills to test and show off their geeky expertise. They also gather like-minded women and provide them with a chance to network and connect with each other by exploring the latest technology, an array of ideas and a lot more. The platform has helped invigorate more than women’s spirits – from leadership to communication skills, from marketing to technology, from business planning to problem solving, from confidence building to skill enhancement, women see Hackathons as multi-dimensional empowering events. Today, technology touches and enables literally everything we can think of. And technology has evolved from being a support function for enterprises, organizations and businesses, to being a central driver for growth, across industries. This makes the relevance and appeal of Hackathons much wider with respect to scope and applicability, much beyond their stereotypical “tech event” perception.
With Women in STEM Hackathons, our foundation unites mentors, judges, renowned recruiters from top firms in STEM fields to encourage a pool of knowledge exchange to take place. It just gets more interesting from here on when women engage with coding at the forum to showcase that they have what it takes to deliver and excel, leaving leading female figures and even male executives from the corporate world immensely impressed. This gradually leads to a change in opinion for the companies who mostly hire male staff for STEM jobs. It is amazing how a hackathon can lead to a succession of steps in creating more women leaders in STEM who double up as role models for the new generation.
Inclusive tech communities and inclusive workforces are the need of the hour across the globe, and even more so in the region owing to its thriving digital literacy and massive infrastructure plans and investments. With stronger online presence & commerce becoming a must, even for established players, and a growing start-up culture in the region, women can play a critical role in contributing to these developments. And this ‘inclusion’ is what the Women in STEM Hackathon 2016 is looking to promote.
If you found the above topic of interest, please join us at the ‘Women in STEM All-Women Hackathon’ to be held on February 19th & 20th, 2016 in Dubai. The WiSTEM Hackathons are a key component of The Meera Kaul Foundations Women in Stem Program and are held multiple times a year, in various locations across the globe.
The second edition of the annual UAE event will bring together wannabe women tech-entrepreneurs to hack in 48 hours and challenge participants to develop mobile applications that present innovative solutions to the problems women face daily. This innovative platform is being brought forward by The Meera Kaul Foundation and invites attendees from across the MENA region. For further information, to get involved or register, please visit http://meerakaul.com/meera/hackathon/dubai2016/ or contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org