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Published on November 21st, 2021 📆 | 6167 Views ⚑

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Five ways to empower women in Qatar to excel in technology

By Bassam Hajhamad, Country Senior Partner and Consulting Leader at PwC Qatar

Technology is disrupting the world as we know it and scientific breakthroughs are transforming the way we work. Despite decades of progress, women are still underrepresented in the technology field. In PwC’s 24th Annual Global CEO survey, 70% of Middle East CEOs said a skilled, educated and adaptable workforce is a top business priority and 39% consider lack of skills a major threat for their organisation. Women around the world need to be equipped with the tools and skills to advance in a world that is undergoing rapid digital transformation. Qatar has recognised this, and as part of Qatar’s National Vision 2030, seeks to achieve “increased opportunities and vocational support for Qatari women”. 

Barriers to females excelling in technology are deeply entrenched in our society – from the stereotypes that we reinforce, behaviours we encourage all the way to our everyday language. In our view, interventions must be made on the societal and organisational levels in order to enact real change and empower women in technology. 

An early adoption approach

From a young age, females are exposed to the stereotype that technology is male dominated.  Whether it is a gaming industry that is predominantly targeted at males or technology toys branded to appeal to males, young females encounter biases from their developing years onwards.  In order to counter these, our view is to use an early adoption approach and encourage young females to engage with technology through education and play. 

The private sector can partner with educational institutions that focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects and encourage young  females to pursue these subjects and career paths.  PwC is one of the founders of TechSheCan in the UK, which has over 140 companies that are committed to empowering school level females to see technology jobs as a realistic and exciting future for them to pursue.  Nurturing a passion for technology early in life will eventually translate into career choices, leading to a gradual shift in the gender balance of the technology workforce. 

Changing the Conversation

We must change the conversation by ensuring we use more gender-neutral language in the business environment and beyond. For example, refraining from using masculine pronouns and descriptors when describing a tech-savvy person or posting a job advertisement. We must also unlearn the biases that underlie such language and conversations, and understand their impact on decisions and behaviors that lead to women’s marginalisation in this industry. 

Creating the right opportunities

Increasing the number of females who are interested in technology is not enough – businesses need to ensure that these females are equipped and supported to excel in their careers by creating the right opportunities.

Steps that can be taken to open up opportunities include:
– Introducing strict gender targets to ensure that recruitment is gender balanced.
– Similar to PwC’s hackathon and TechSheCan, organisations can run programs, competitions and workshops in partnership with universities to gain access to top female talent.
– Offering apprenticeships, placements and internships for young professionals to strengthen their work experience, explore potential career paths and build their networks. 
Upskilling opportunities and programmes 

Digitalisation is revolutionising the way that we work, and it is now a necessity to be digitally upskilled to remain competitive.  It is our recommendation that everyone is digitally upskilled, and businesses must ensure that women are not disadvantaged in this process.  Checks and balances should be put in place to ensure fair representation of women in upskilling opportunities, and positive interventions must be taken when required.   

In addition to digital upskilling, there are many opportunities and programmes that can be targeted at women in technology, such as tailored training, special advancement opportunities, preferential learning paths, and extended maternity benefits. Businesses can reap many benefits through implementing these, including increased retention, progression, engagement and loyalty.  

Supporting career paths

We believe that providing mentorship opportunities builds future female technologists.. They are effective due to their tailored approach and individual focus, providing personalised support, network access and role models. Sponsorship leverages existing power and networks to uplift and promote women. A combination of both mentorship and sponsorship shapes and promotes female talent, giving them guidance and visibility while they climb the corporate ladder and turn female leadership aspirations into reality.  These success stories can then become female role-models, mentors and sponsors for aspiring young women in the future.

In conclusion, it is a moral, social and national priority for women to become an integral and equal part of the Qatari workforce. Holistic intervention is required to address the gender imbalance, starting from the foundation and reaching all the way to the executive suite.

Author is the Country Senior Partner and Consulting Leader at PwC Qatar

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