Bahraini women make up more than half of the civil service, and with the kingdom’s focus on women in engineering, empowerment is high on the agenda.
Earlier this year, Bahraini princess Sabeeka bint Ibrahim Al Khalifa declared the theme of the kingdom’s women’s day to honor female engineers. Today, as part of the fourth Middle East Process Engineering conference and exhibition, a forum was held to specifically to break down barriers for Bahrain’s female engineers.
The forum drew the participation of women engineers from government institutions, oil companies, and industrial firms, among other industries crucial to Bahrain’s knowledge economy.
Bahrain’s Supreme Council for Women
The Supreme Council for Women was specifically set up to bring lifelong learning for Bahraini women while introducing the infrastructure and talent pipeline in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
The national statistics from the Higher Education Council in Bahrain reveals that around 533 female STEM graduates entered the workforce in 2013-2014, which makes up 57% of the national cohort. According to Hala Mohammed Al-Ansari, the Secretary-General of the Supreme Council for Women, this is a clear sign that women are interested in STEM subjects.
31% of the engineers in leading positions in the public sector are women. In the private sector, figures from the Social Insurance Organization reveal that 16% of all engineers are women.
Bahrain’s engineering curriculum
Speaking at an event on empowering women to pursue and excel in STEM fields, Al-Ansari outlined the Supreme Women Council’s directives, which largely relies on the support of local academic institutions.
“The role of national universities needs to be more flexible and faster to respond to current and future labor market requirements,” she said. “We need to think of two or three-dimensional disciplines that combine scientific specialization, technological skills, and business management skills in order to expand the choices available to female graduates.”
For Al-Ansari, this will translate to integrating female engineers in the workforce.
“We hope to create a comprehensive national framework for academic and career guidance that adopts advanced mechanisms and non-traditional methods.”
Women lead the cohort
University of Bahrain, the leading university in the kingdom, has a number of STEM-specific programs in place to boost gender diversity in these traditionally male-dominated sectors. The university’s president, Professor Riyad Y Hamzah believes that engaging women starts as early as when they enroll in university.
The distinct presence of women in a number of scientific fields alone drives innovation and creative thought, he said.
“From universities, change begins and new ideas are created.”
“We found that females exceed their male colleagues in the specialization of information systems, and they are very close in number in Chemistry, Biology, Civil Engineering, and Architecture, whereas they vary in number in other scientific disciplines,” he said.