Amid difficult economic circumstances and a job market where male workers dramatically outnumber females, Egyptian women are taking new steps in the technology sector, an area previously dominated by men.

Motoon, which helps develop networks in the technology sector, partnered with the Google Developer Group (GDC) in Cairo to organise a conference titled Egyptian Women in Technology  in March. The conference at the Goethe Institute featured successful women and shed light on the main challenges and obstacles facing them.

“There aren’t many women in this field. Is it because we do not want to support them or we do not believe in their capacities? Are there real problems impeding their professional career paths? We are trying to understand this by organising events that give them a chance to participate, show their practical and scientific experience, and reveal the difficulties they are facing,” noted Sara al-Sherif, a project manager at Motoon. Women in Egypt need a supportive environment and network, Sherif went on, so one of the first steps is to introduce newcomers to the success cases and the latest techniques in the field, as well as connecting them to companies and associations to launch their own projects.

Samira Negm, aged 30 and a participant at the conference, is the CEO of the company that created Raye7, a culturally sensitive carpool app. “I thought about using technology to serve society by creating the app Raye7 to help solve the traffic crisis. The app aims at encouraging carpooling and helping people benefit from their resources efficiently to enjoy safe and affordable transportation.”

Negm, who has previously worked in software development, training, process design and project management said she was lucky to have a family who supported her in her career path from the beginning. “They understood the importance of technology and taught me to love programming. I am lucky to have a supportive family and a husband who understands the nature of my job and my late working hours,” she said.

Although Negm was appreciated by her employers, Sherif said that this is not the case for most Egyptian women. According to her, one of the main challenges is that company owners do not want to employ women because the nature of the work often requires staying late and because men are considered — culturally — to be more apt at technology.

“Women feel society does not help them or encourage them enough, and they often decide to opt out themselves,” Sherif said, adding that the work structure, with men at the helm, is not easily adaptable to women’s responsibilities after marriage. Faced with a boss who does not understand women’s increased workload at home after marriage, female employees often end up leaving work once they start a family.

Women also face bias in the job market when it comes to leadership positions and salary. A report titled “Equality Between Men and Women in the Arab Region in a Changing World,” published by the International Labor Organization last year, noted that six Arab countries, including Egypt, are among the top 10 countries where the salary gap between genders is the widest. The Egyptian government is trying, through its economic plan Vision 2030, to increase the participation rate of women in all areas of the job market from 4.2% to 35% by 2030. The strategy seeks to empower women and young people in a systematic way that achieves a positive impact in reducing the generation and gender gap.

This edited article by Fatma Lotfi, first appeared in Al Monitor


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