Response to #MENA Women in STEM

PITAPOLICY continues its focus on the “T” in PITA (Technology) Last week, PITAPOLICY posted Daniel Armanios’s piece, which broke down the problem of Technology Use & Knowledge Sharing in the science and diplomacy spheres. In the first week, PITAPOLICY contributor, Sharifa Al Barami shared her piece on entrepreneurship as she uses social media to connect with others in Oman and beyond. PITAPOLICY’s introduction received some push back by one of its followers because we stated that “globally, women are not well represented in science, technology, and other innovative fields” after noting that only 4 of the top 100 Arab Women came from those fields. Hence, this week we are delighted to include Marc Arenstein’s response blog piece.

Mr. Arenstein contests PITAPOLICY’s use of “globally” and provides his observations. Nonetheless, PITAPOLICY stands by its earlier statement because we see that women are not represented in the STEM fields professionally–regardless of their enrollment rates in such courses at the university level. This challenging trend applies not only to MENA, or ‘pita-consuming’ region, but in other regions as well.

PITAPOLICY Invites PITA-Consumers Participate in Technology for Business Survey
PITAPOLICY is conducting a 22 question survey throughout March. The survey targets both technology professionals and non technology professionals who work in the Middle East & North Africa region. So yes, non Arabs (also pita-consumers) are also encouraged to participate -Turkey, Berber speakers, Iran, Persian Speakers, Azerbaijan, Afghanistan and Pakistan included. Click here to participate in the 10 minute survey!

Rebuttal by Marc Arenstein
The following remarks are intended to begin fleshing out the statement “globally, women are not well represented in science, technology, and other innovative fields” from the March 7, 2012 introduction to “March features Technology in MENA: Oman Entrepreneurial Jam

With apologies to women and other readers in Far Eastern, Central and Eastern European, and Latin and South American and other significant global regions for not being represented in this short piece; some countries that raise the STEM gender bar a bit further and others aware or becoming more aware of it.

My impression is that although the undergraduate university enrollment of women in MENA and Gulf countries in Scientific Technological Engineering and Medical (STEM) fields – let’s throw in Information Technology and Communications (ICT) and Mathematics too, and while we are at it, Business and Finance – may be anywhere from a tenth or less to a proportion more than male enrollments – actual work participation in the labor force in these professions in MENA and Gulf countries is severely restricted to single digit percentages, well below Western thresholds. Therefore, the nuances are different.

To get an idea check any/some Google Scholar results, like , this search,5&as_ylo=2010 or these or these searches. There does seem to be professional female pioneers representing all these field–and likely more in the most unexpected of MENA countries. Is this a trend? Perhaps, but don\’t expect immediate jumps in numbers. This depends on private industry, multinational corporations, civic and public encouragement and NGO support and, hopefully, when the numbers become more significant, they can begin assisting men too – unlike the record in the West where aging de-salaried male inadvertent freelancers are the new emergent disadvantaged. Note that there is even legal equality in some MENA countries for women, but I am not checking salaries just yet. The nuances in the West are different. For unclear reasons, women still generally get less pay for equal work but the multiple of the difference changes between countries. Proportions of women CEOs and prominent women in senior management positions are still lower than in “middle class” professional positions. But both are in general quantitative retreat for both genders anyway. The percentages of women active in these fields is generally between 10-30%+ depending on the field and the country. My guess is that by the time AI cyber robots/automation replaces much, if not most, white collar work in the West, many more people and many more women than today will be gainfully employed in the new world.

Note: Follow Marc Arenstein @traintalk is on the wrong side of the employment and other divides and probably does not figure in any STEM or any other statistic for that matter except internal Google logs and perhaps immeasurably in a few minds for a few moments.

Global Innovation Policy Index Only Includes Two MENA Economies

PITAPOLICY will attend the 2012 Arab Net Summit in Beirut, Lebanon at the end of March for a few reasons. Firstly, PITAPOLICY leverages social media technology to promote the business entrepreneurial goals of PITAPOLICY Consulting and continues to learn about better ways to engage these tools.

Secondly, Technology & Innovation was the subject of a report issued by the Kauffman Foundation of Entrepreneurship in early March. The report authors, Robert D. Atkinson, Stephen J. Ezell, and Luke A. Stewart compiled the Global Innovation Policy (GIP) Index, which tracked the innovation capacity of 55 economies, only two of which come from the MENA region: Turkey and Israel. Lebanon nor Egypt were included. Notwithstanding that many MENA countries–in particular Arab countries–have been reported to be less robust in data-sharing, PITAPOLICY is alarmed that the region is not more represented in the GIP Index.

The GIP Index examines innovation policy by aggregating 84 metrics into 7 areas. These 7 are:
1) Open and non-discriminatory market access and foreign direct investment policies;
2) Science and R&D policies that spur innovation;
3) Openness to domestic competition and new firm entry;
4) Effective intellectual property rights protection policies;
5) Digital policies enabling the robust deployment of ICT platforms;
6) Open and transparent government procurement policies; and
7) Openness to high-skill immigration.

Additionally, we look forward to exploring the challenges of ‘pita-consuming’ women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) and how they translate their degrees into gainful employment.


Filed under Interests, Technology

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