The Middle East is Closing the Gender Gap
Over the last decade global societies have experience change in many forms. Some have endured violent wars, others have experienced cultural transformations, and others have witnessed great strides in progress. The Middle East is one region that has experienced violence, war, cultural transformations, and progress and is beginning to be recognized as a region of positive change. The women of the Middle East and North Africa are much closer to closing the tech gender gap than women in America and Europe. Women in these regions account for 25 to 35 percent of entrepreneurs in internet startups.
The cultural bias against women in these regions does not exist in technology fields, and this is allowing women to pursue careers they previously were unable to. "[T]he internet is a...new space that is more meritocratic and not as heavily male" said the Economist. The internet fosters this change by allowing women to work from home while raising a family. They can integrate their cultural values into their drive to build a career outside the home. Within these traditional societies, women are taking full advantage of their access to the internet and creating new opportunities for themselves and all women.
The increase in women entrepreneurs in these regions has spurred the attention of Google. The company's #40 Forward program aims to increase the representation of women in high tech fields by 25 percent this year and 25 percent of the programs chosen are in the Middle East. #40Forward is a program launched by Google to provide assistance to women entrepreneurs in the tech industry. Data reveals that "women-led tech companies achieve 35 percent higher return on their investments and when venture-backed, bring in 12 percent more revenue than male-owned tech companies" (Google.com). The assistance provided by Google for Entrepreneurs is sure to close the gap between women and men tech startups and increase the representation for women.
The increase of women in tech jobs in the Middle East is influenced by the growing number of young women pursuing STEM majors. STEM is the acronym for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Historically an area of study dominated by men, women now account for a higher percentage. Not only are women studying STEM at higher rates, but they are also furthering their education by attending conference, classes, and competitions on their free time. Their efforts have now put them on the same playing field as men in math and science industries.
In comparison to the Middle East and North Africa, the United Nations' International Telecommunication Union has recognized that even though women are excelling in math and sciences, they are pursuing careers outside of the tech industries. Many girls in the United States and Europe who excel in mathematics and science choose careers in the medical and bio-tech fields rather than engineering and computing. It is this pursuit of other careers that places America and Europe behind the Middle East in solving the tech gender gap.
Women have a more difficult time gaining access to startup capital; only three percent of women-owned tech companies are backed by venture capital. Also, women are still, generally, tasked with raising a family, and will need greater assistance in working from home. Promoting and improving at home tech jobs for women would be beneficial to society as a whole. Not only would society gain access to a larger pool of knowledge and skills, but the decrease in driving and reduction in purchase of office supplies would protect the environment and boost the profits of companies. By women and companies cutting out these extraneous costs, they can focus on building their presence in the tech industries. The Unites States and Europe should look to the example of Middle Eastern entrepreneurial woman in order to close the tech gender gap.
The efforts and accomplishments of women in the Middle East and North Africa should be recognized and support by women everywhere. Every step forward for women in those regions is a step forward for women everywhere.