By Hana'a AlSyead, CEO and Founder of Wujud
Former NASA Ambassador and well known actress, singer and voice artist, Nichelle Nichols, once said, “Science is not a boy's game, it's not a girl's game. It's everyone's game. It's about where we are and where we're going.”
My favorite pastime as a child was to break open watches and gadgets and get fascinated with the precision that made them work. I had no idea that playing with gadgets and figuring how they work, would become the foundation of my education, career, personality and in fact my life. I became passionate about exploring the heart of matters and finding what it takes to make them ‘tick’ better.
For my education, I chose multiple disciplines that included science and art. I was and still am equally interested in both fields. I am convinced that they complete each other and that they were meant to go hand in hand. Statistics indicates that I was one of the few hundreds of women from Asia to earn a bachelors degree from the USA in Computer Science in my year of graduation. When I opted for my master’s degree soon after, I was one of less than a handful of women in all my graduate courses. It was during those days that I learnt to stand up on my toes, raise my hands and voice to be seen and heard. The boys were much taller, bigger and louder. I never felt intimidated by them, I just felt that I had to do more to get by and to get the attention I needed and deserved.
After graduation, I returned home to put my education to practical use. At the time technology was a mere support function – a department in a large organization. I joined such a department and the long work hours and endless coding made me restless. I didn’t feel I was creating innovative solutions. I felt my role was passive. Although I worked in my field of education, the real action and art were missing. To switch roles for a more active career, I ventured into the landscape of business operations. It was there where I felt I can put technology to use to drive innovation. In no time, I knew this was (and still is) my passion.
I understood how to engineer systems and how to foster technology to improve these systems. I also learned how to use such systems and tools to create innovative solutions both simple and complex. I came to appreciate my education, experience and my inquisitive personality and I aspired to be able to create solutions that upgrade humanity. This later became the basic principle that led me to start my current venture - Wujud.
In Saudi Arabia, we have one of the world’s highest ratios of women STEM graduates of about 60 percent. However and like most countries in the world, this ratio is not properly reflected in the workforce of the STEM industries. Looking back at my journey and while I value where I am today, I can’t help but feel missed out on the opportunity to have worked full fledge in my field as a STEM graduate. I also feel we haven’t progressed much, globally and statistically, since my graduation. We have not done enough to address both sides of the challenge: less women opting for STEM education and even lesser of them working in the field.
We live in an era that is empowered and advanced to the highest degree ever known to humanity. Women, make up half of the world’s population – and have been part of all the evolutions that mankind has ever witnessed. It is not acceptable that we do not have, in this day and age, a leveled playground for women to master the game of science.
As we move forward in our evolution and channel technology for the betterment of humanity, women’s presence in the industry’s workforce need to be looked at with discerning eyes. We must make bold moves in the STEM industry and make it more conducive for women to contribute and prosper in the field. I want to see more women creating and driving technology based companies that focus on upgrading the quality of life.
Ladies, make science your game and put your heart in it, for yourself, for your daughters, and for your sons. Let your dreams of a better world pave your path, nothing else is worth it.