Egyptian women take on men in technology

Lotfi, Al Monitor, April 4, 2018

As the
Egyptian government tries to increase participation of women in the labor
market, Egypt’s tech-savvy women aim to get ahead in a sector traditionally
reserved for men.
Negm, the CEO of Raye7, talks to attendees of the Egyptian Women in Technology
conference, Cairo, Egypt, March 10, 2018.

Amid difficult economic circumstances and a job market where the participation of male
is considerably higher than their female counterparts,
Egyptian women are taking new steps in the technology sector, an area dominated
by men.

Motoon, which helps develop networks in
the technology sector, partnered with the Google
Developer Group
(GDC) in Cairo to organize a conference titled “Egyptian Women in Technology,”
which took place March 10. The conference at the Goethe Institute featured
successful women and shed light on the main challenges and obstacles facing them.
Noon Tech program supports women working in the technology field by organizing
regular training sessions and workshops.
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 organizing
events that give them a chance to participate, show their practical and
scientific experience, and reveal the difficulties they are facing,” Sara
al-Sherif, a project manager at Motoon, told Al-Monitor.
She said
that women in Egypt need a supportive environment and network, 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,
30, a participant in the conference, is the CEO of the company that created
Raye7, a culturally sensitive carpool app. She told Al-Monitor, “I thought
about using technology to serve society by creating the app Raye7
to solve the traffic crisis. The app aims at encouraging carpooling and helping
people benefit from their resources efficiently to enjoy safe and affordable
whether she faced many difficulties as a woman in the technology sector, she
said her determination helped overcome challenges and that she got promoted in
her eight years of professional experience. “Perhaps I chose a different path
from the others, but I succeeded,” she added. Negm has worked in software
development, training, process design and project management.
Negm 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. Negm’s
husband also works in technology.
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 due to the nature of the work that
requires staying late and because men are considered — culturally — to be more
apt at technology.
feel that 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.
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 in April
2017, stated that six Arab countries, including Egypt, are among the 10
countries where the salary gap
between both genders
is the widest. The Egyptian government is
trying, through Egypt Vision
, to increase the participation rate of women in all fields in
the job market from 4.2% to 35% by 2030. The strategy seeks to empower women
and youths in a systematic way that achieves a positive impact in reducing the
generation and gender gap.
there aren’t any official figures about the number of employees in the
technology field in Egypt, the sector is dominated by men.
Todray, 26, overcame her fears and worked hard to become a trainer at Women Techmakers Cairo, a
program run by Google that supports women in the technology field. She told
Al-Monitor, “After I graduated, I was afraid of starting in this field, but I
learned to believe in myself and my capacities. This is what I am doing with
graduated from the faculty of information and technology at El Shorouk Academy
in Cairo. She currently works as an Android app programmer and developer for
Egyptian governmental services, in addition to her work with Google where she
organizes events to serve women’s needs in the technology field.
She noted
that in her first job in a private tech company, she was the first woman
working in a team of men. She added, “I noticed that there are fewer women than
men [in the field of technology]. I want to encourage more women to choose this
field and introduce them to their financial rights such as fair pay and level
of salaries. Many of them want an opportunity, even if the pay is low.”
GDC team
leader Abdul Rahman Rifai told Al-Monitor, “We mainly focus on developing
women’s abilities and help them in the field of technology. We are present in
nine provinces — including Alexandria, Faiyum and Minya — and this might expand
to other governorates. We are also launching events to introduce Google’s
latest technologies, in addition to training men and women to use and develop
added, “Since I found someone to help me, I also want to help women trying
to enter this field. Sharing success stories is great motivation. We want to
reach high school students and focus more on girls. I hope Egypt will have the
biggest number of female employees in the technology field with more female
participation in the coming years.”