Panel: Placing Saudi Women at the Forefront of the Tech Arena

Saudi Arabia has made—and continues to make—immeasurable strides in promoting women at the forefront of the Kingdom’s expanding tech sector. It’s a topic that is increasingly taking center stage.

During the recent Global IT Summit at the King Abdullah University for Science and Technology, a panel discussion canvassed the array of successes leading women have made across the Kingdom’s information technology (IT) sector, while addressing efforts needed to prompt women to pursue an IT career.

As panelists noted, the percentage of women in IT, as compared to men, remains far fewer. Initiatives to encourage women’s participation in the field, therefore, remain critical.

Breaking Down Perceived Obstacles to Empower the Next Generation

If the next generation of women has a one thing going for them, it’s that they’re not satisfied sitting still. As panelists noted, this cohort of Millennial women are entering the IT sector without, to their benefit, the patience or tolerance older generations of women once had in being a minority among the tech sector.

Empowering this next generation requires breaking down perceived obstacles barring women from entry. According to the panelists, efforts must instill women with the confidence to navigate the challenges of breaking into a, for now, male-dominated sector.

Major companies and academic institutions are actively playing a part.

Amelie de Marsily, Cisco’s global enterprise services delivery leader for Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Russia, said that Cisco has launched programs for young women to share their stories and challenges. “I think for anyone to flourish, slightly more important for women, [there has to be] an environment of safety and trust,” she said.

Parents too can play a role.  “Girls very quickly put their own boundaries,” de Marsily added. In response, de Marsily urged parents to create an “unlimited” environment for women to navigate their own interests to develop their own strengths and overcome their own barriers.

Omaimah Bamasag, an associate professor at the College of Computing and Information Technology at the girls’ section of King Abdulaziz University, noted internships abroad expose women to opportunities across diverse cultural settings.

For Saudi female students, she said, the new concentration centers on internships in the U.S.  “Students have to take part in the two-month summer internship program. We [at King Abdulaziz University] have partnerships and agreements with various organizations in both the government and private sectors to train our students, which is part of our requirements,” she said.

As Patricia Florissi, global chief technology officer at Dell EMC, concluded, “There are real benefits and business values in bringing together people of different mindsets and backgrounds.”

The Kingdom’s Technology Advancements Bode Well for the IT Sector

Under Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, encouraging economic growth via digitization has emerged as a concentrated priority. And at a government and industrial level, the Kingdom is already surpassing the predictions it has set for the value digitization would bring to the nation’s economic development.

“[Saudi Arabia] want[s] to create a very efficient digitized transparent government. They want to provide advanced digital services to citizens, small and medium-sized enterprises and corporates in a very efficient way. They want to create an innovative ecosystem in the country,” aid Khaled Biyari, group CEO at the Saudi Telecom Co.

With more initiatives pursued, and opportunities opened, roles for women in the growing IT sector will continue to flourish. By creating an environment welcoming of diversity and open to change, women will have a new if not important role to play in a promising realm of the Kingdom’s growing economy.

Read more at Arab News.