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Saudi Arabian Women Blaze the Trail into Engineering Despite Pushback

posted on: Mar 22, 2017

BY: Yasi Stephanie Farokhi/Contributing Writer

While mainstream news media seems to solely focus on the issues that Arab women face in their home countries, they fail to mention where Arab women far surpass their male counterparts. For example, at a time where the rate of American women graduating from engineering programs has stalled out at 20 percent for more than 10 years, Arab women have been continuously congregating to the field. Simply put, Arab women study STEM majors at a higher rate than men.

Nonetheless, Arab women do continue to face discrimination in their home countries based on their career passions in life. Nermin Fawzi Sa’d, a mechanical engineer, had hoped to find meaningful work in Saudi Arabia after moving there from Jordan. Unfortunately, the nation’s strict laws forbidding mixed-gender workplaces brought an end to any of her engineering ambitions. While Saudi Arabia may be the strictest Arab nation when it comes to women’s rights, Sa’d knew it was time to take matters into her own hands. Respecting her career capabilities, she decided to fight this hindrance placed on to Arab women. Sa’d decided to open her own engineering firm, Handasiyat.

Aware of the unwarranted laws and cultural views forbidding women to work with their male counterparts, Handasiyat is a hub that conducts business online; there is no need for Arab women to work in any office. While this solution may not be ideal, Sa’d’s firm is a short-term solution for a long-term ongoing issue. Handasiyat has sanctioned numerous Arab women to continue their passion for engineering. Sa’d also set up a virtual conference room so the female engineers she hired could interact with clients while still being based out of their own homes. Currently, Handasiyat is the largest hub for Arab female engineers.

Despite this success, Sa’d undoubtedly faced frequent challenges. Most noticeably, she explains that countless people didn’t take her idea seriously. Funding has also been an issue for Sa’d’s ambition. Despite the naysayers, and deterrents, Handasiyat has taken off; it is now the largest hub for female engineers in the whole region. Women in other Arab countries have also taken notice to Handasiyat and the company receives resumes from female engineers throughout the Arab world.

Sa’d was persistent and chose to pursue her passion for engineering despite the societal restrictions that prohibited her from doing so in Saudi Arabia. Sa’d is proof that regardless of challenges, women must continue to fight for their aspirations in life. Sa’d may have created a hub solely for female Arab engineers, but her creation is symbolic for all women facing discrimination in the workplace.