The Relationship Between Arab Women and the Engineering World
By: Raneem Ghunaim/Arab America Contributing Writer
Statistically speaking, in the Arab World, more women are pursuing a STEM major rather than other countries. In the past decade, the US number of students pursuing an engineering degree has been the same, 30% of students enrolled, but only 20% make to graduation. Meanwhile, in the Arab World, the numbers have shot past those in the U.S. Arab countries in general value education on a much higher level, especially for women. This is why there is a positive correlation between Arab women and higher education. People in both wealthy and developing countries value high education the same.
In the Arab World, wealthier, and more developed countries have experienced a higher rate of graduation of women in engineering classes. For example, Kuwait’s graduation rate among was 49%, In Bahrain, 32%, in UAE women enrollment for STEM fields has significantly increased from 2.9% in 2012 to 24.9% in 2015. We could just imagine how much that number must have increased in 2020. In Saudi Arabia, the graduation rate for women in engineering has also significantly increased and went from 1% in 2000 to 10% in 2011. 80% of their female students show interest in engineering as well.
Developing countries, however, regardless of the hardship that they have been going through on a daily basis, their emphasis on education has been remarkable. The disadvantages never stopped them from achieving the highest education they possibly could. For example, in Gaza, Palestine, women who study either engineering and/or computer science are the same if not a higher rate than men. In addition, Jordan has a 40% female enrollment in engineering classes and Algeria’s female enrollment for engineering classes is at 36%.
In the Arab World, someone’s “social importance” is measured by many tools. Education is one of them; those with higher education are considered to be “superior” and more trustworthy. In an article by Eric Iverson, he talked about Tod Laursen, the president of Khalifa University in Abu Dhabi and former Duke University faculty member. When she was interviewed, she said, “The engineering profession, in general, holds much prestige in the UAE. Moreover, research shows that the families of female students are highly supportive and proud of their daughters, wives, siblings studying these subjects.” It is a concept that many families in the Arab World encourage one another to pursue engineering for women and find pride in doing it.
Aside from the tremendous support these women get from home to pursue their dream careers, in some Arab countries, women in engineering also get support from the government. For example, In the UAE, they host annual contests for women in engineering and scholarships that they could earn as well. A recent report conducted by the class, June 9, 2020, states that on average, engineers in the UAE make about $165,000 and a maximum of $450,000. In addition, the high salaries are tax-free and companies pay for housing. In comparison to the US, the annual high salary for an engineer is usually around $165,000.
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