The conversation discusses how the technological revolution opens a window of opportunity in achieving gender equality. More specifically, Sana highlights the ways in which the modern technological advances are promoting women’s engagement and participation in entrepreneurship, especially within the MENA region.
Technology and Gender Equality
An era of rapid technological evolution has been a powerful driver of gender equality. New doors and opportunities are opening for women in the spheres of formal economies. This has huge implications for women empowerment and women’s rights, especially in countries where the percentage of women participating in the formal workforce remains relatively low. With the advent of COVID-19 and a shift towards virtual workplaces and working from home, digitally-skilled women are more likely to stay afloat financially, and juggle their work and caring responsibilities more effectively.
In another interview with Maize magazine, Sana further discusses gender barriers in tech industries and opens up about the experiences unique to the MENA-region, which have led to her involvement in the feminist movement.
Female Entrepreneurs of the MENA Region
The MENA region has one of the highest rates of gender inequality in terms of labour force participation and financial inclusion. Only 21% of the formal workforce is female and the percentage of young women facing unemployment in 2019 was approximately 42.8%, compared to 8% for men. Sana also brings attention to the compounding damaging effects COVID-19 has had on economies within the region. An estimated 1,7 million jobs have been lost, among which more than 40% were carried out by women (Oxfam, 2020). The women most affected by the crisis are those who work in manufacturing and service provision industries, as well as those in the informal economy, which typically includes a myriad of unpaid labour.
Potential Future Scenarios for MENA Women
Concluding her interview, Sana emphasises a strong need for Arabian communities to continue working progressively on women’s rights and to promote gender equality within economic and private spheres. The investment in female economic participation, particularly in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and entrepreneurial fields, is a two-way relationship. Not only would developing quality female economic engagement revolutionise the movement for gender equality, it would also bring about innovative technological and economic reforms in a broader sense.
We have seen this throughout history – the first computer algorithm was in fact invented by a woman, Ada Lovelace. Wireless frequency-hopping communication systems (or WiFi, GPS and Bluetooth, as we know today) were also a female invention, created by Hedy Lamarr. Many other groundbreaking inventions we take for granted today were also designed by women, yet we know little about them. So, undeniably, the intersection between technology and feminism is an essential consideration to make in the pursuit of societal development.
Womenpreneur’s MENA-based Initiatives
Womenpreneur has successfully launched various initiatives and projects to boost women’s participation and engagement in entrepreneurship and tech, which have been of utmost importance throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. One of them is an ongoing survey on the impact of COVID-19 on female entrepreneurship in the MENA region, the aggregated results combining an analysis of gender barriers in the scene and proposed solutions will be published in a policy paper.
Our latest project was the successful launch of our Womenpreneur Digital Hub. The hub is the first virtual space whereby MENA-based women can learn, connect and grow. We aim to ensure that every woman and girl in the MENA region can access the tools and develop the skills required to realise their fullest economic potential. The hub gives users free access to a diverse community of experts, mentors and peers to share tips and collaborate, as well as various opportunities. For example: job vacancies, scholarships, online courses, competitions, workshops, and so on.
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