The Prominent Role of Women in STEM: Breaking Barrier and Driving Innovations

By Sarah Alaskar – SPE-KSA D&I Publication Team Member

When thinking of the word scientist and engineer, an image of a woman in a lab coat or hard hat also comes to mind. There is undoubtedly a sufficient number of successful female role models in STEM, particularly in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.  STEM fields once dominated by men are seeing a growing participation of females. The gradual shift in perception is mainly due to the immense efforts in woman’s empowerment.  This case is demonstrated in Saudi Arabia, where a new generation of female scientists, mathematicians, and engineers are breaking through barriers and driving innovation in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields. These pioneering women demonstrate that gender is not a barrier to their success in STEM. Meanwhile, their extraordinary achievements are serving as an inspiration to future generations of STEM professionals. 

There are many benefits to increasing the representation of females in STEM fields. First, the role of women in STEM promotes diverse perspectives as females bring different life experiences crucial to solving complex industry problems. Females can also fuel creativity and enhance collaboration, improving work quality and output. Finally, increased participation of females allows for a more diverse STEM workforce, leading to increased economic growth and competitiveness as it taps into a broader pool of talents and backgrounds.

Current Challenges

Although there are many benefits to having women in STEM, there are equally as many challenges. One challenge is the constant struggle to overcome cultural and societal barriers that can deter them from advancing in their respective careers. More mentorship opportunities are needed in STEM fields with the lowest female representation to achieve gender parity. Women need to see other women succeeding to believe that it is possible for them to do the same.  However, the lack of supportive policies and infrastructure in some workplaces can also make it difficult for women to balance their professional and personal lives. One example of this is that in many cases, the load for child rearing, although shared between both parents, is more heavily skewed towards the mother in most cases. Interventions as simple as providing a lactation room for nursing mothers is a minor adjustment that could make the most significant difference. Therefore tailoring policies and infrastructures to accommodate the unique challenges faced by females in the workforce can have positive outcomes on the contribution of women in STEM fields. Additionally, networking opportunities can help women in STEM fields navigate the challenges they face and learn from other female pioneers around them.

Strategies for Encouraging Women in STEM

  • Providing mentorship and sponsorship opportunities
  • Offering flexible work arrangements
  • Promoting diversity and inclusion
  • Supporting women’s advancement

Kingdom Efforts and Female Role Models

With the introduction of the Vision 2030 social and economic reforms, female participation has risen from 19% to 33%. Women in the kingdom currently represent 58 percent of university students, many pursuing STEM. 

In recent years, Saudi Arabia has made significant advancements toward empowering STEM profession-based females, and there is certainly no shortage of role models. Some notable examples of females in STEM include Dr. Hayat Sindi, a pioneer medical scientist who invented a novel disease-diagnosing device that can be used on-site to detect illnesses promptly. Another inspiring example is Mishaal Ashemimry, the first Saudi woman to join NASA and the first female aerospace engineer in the Gulf region. Alshemimry is a professor at the University of Miami Mechanical and Aerospace Department, and she founded MISHAAL Aerospace to fulfill her lifelong ambition of developing rockets. These are just a few examples of the many Saudi females contributing to STEM fields. 

Women in STEM fields are finding their way around these obstacles to keep on advancing the wheel of innovation. By pushing boundaries and challenging norms, women in STEM are not only bringing forth a new wave of motivation for generations to come but also reversing the tide of barriers into breakthroughs.

Hayat Sindi

Mishaal Al-Shemimry