It is often assumed that the world of technology is a scene dominated by men. Despite this stereotype, women have made headway and carved out their own niche in this field often monopolised by men.
The presence of women working in the field of technology is not unheard of, and there are some women who have developed a namesake thanks to their technological inventions. One example is the Austrian-American actress Hedy Lamarr who invented radio guidance technology that would later be incorporated into modern Wi-Fi, CDMA, and Bluetooth technology.
Egyptian women are also looking to make a name for themselves in the field. A number of recent events and conferences aimed to encourage the participation of women in creating new, innovative technology. These events also aimed to create a network of women working in technology throughout the Middle East and North Africa.
Daily News Egypt highlights below some successful women working in the field of technology as well as tech companies that are working to increase the role of women in the field.
In recent decades, IBM has expressed its commitment to creating career development and work-life programmes that address the specific needs of women. As a result, the number of women working at the company has increased as IBM seeks to support them with flexible work options that enable them to adhere to family and personal obligations while retaining employed.
IBM has several programmes dedicated to their female employees that encourage innovation. These programmes include advancing technical abilities, helping build relationships, and developing executive positions for women.
For the community, IBM has academic programmes located throughout Africa that aim to empower students and provide them with tools for their careers. Through these programmes, women are given increased access to involvement in technology.
Maha Aboulrous, Cairo Lab Director
Maha Aboulrous is the Cairo Lab Director at IBM Egypt since 2013. Cairo Lab is an organization that started back in 1982 as a scientific research center and continued to grow over the years to its current form providing R&D, development, and services in Egypt and the region at large.
Aboulrous is the first woman to lead the Cairo Lab since its inception. Aboulrous focused on driving a culture of innovation in the lab team at large, given the misconception that innovation is limited to research; today 35% of the lab team is innovating. Proud with this achievement, Aboulrous is spreading the innovation culture across the region from her seat as the chair of the North Africa Academy of Technology affiliate.
“I’m a huge supporter of diversity programs in IBM, participating in the different HR talent programs, and offering mentorship especially when it comes to early professionals.” Aboulrous said.
The work environment at IBM is very flexible, coupled with family support, allowed Aboulrous to better handle the challenge on time associated with this role.
Hala El Gohary, Director of Client Innovation Center at IBM Middle East & Africa
Hala El Gohary has been working at IBM since 1998. She led the foundation of the Embedded Systems Practice within IBM Egypt since 2006 and established the Embedded Systems Center of Excellence (COE) across eight centres around IBM. Just a few years after that, she was named as director of the Client Innovation Center.
The main role of these centres is to deliver projects to IBM’s clients.
El Gohary managed to double the capacity of the Client Innovation Center and deliver high quality complex services across different industries and regions. Following these successes, IBM senior executives appointed El Gohary to apply her leadership capabilities and experience in building another delivery centre in Morocco. She was then appointed as the leader of all Middle East and Africa centres. Because of her efforts, IBM acquired a new centre in Morocco that serves one of their key clients.
Her role as Integration Executive is to lead the integration of any acquired company that has more than 400 employees and established business processes into the IBM business environment. This is the most recent venture El Gohary has added to her list of accomplishments.
For El Gohary, the most challenging obstacle was time management, especially when she travelled abroad because it created distance between her and her family.
El Gohary said that 30% of her management team are women and she holds regular round tables with her employees, which a special one focused on women, in order to understand problems they face inside the workplace.
She noted that her ambition to expand the centres aims to provide more job opportunities in Egypt in addition to helping promote Egypt as a regional hub.
Marwa Abbas, Digital Sales Brand Leader & Digital Sales Center Leader IBM Middle East & Africa
It took two years for Marwa to climb the ranks in IBM’s region-based Digital Sales Center. She has been working at IBM for 22 years, in which time she has been handling several jobs in sales and marketing across business units covering Egypt, the Middle East, and Africa while being based in Cairo.
“The Digital Sales Center empowers companies in the Middle East and Africa to build IT infrastructure by using the latest generation of mobile, big data, social media, and cloud computing technologies,” said Abbas. “The rise of digital technology has reset our clients’ expectations and requires enterprises to rethink the end-to-end client experience.”
Abbas continues: “We have done everything to create a pleasant and comfortable work environment that will enable our employees to deliver and achieve clients’ target goals. This investment in technology and above all collaboration spaces will give us the opportunity to work more effectively and to deliver higher value to our clients and to IBM.”
Intel has always been dedicated to promoting women and diversity. As an example of this, the company was awarded with the first ever Corporate Contribution and Leadership Award by the Global Connections for Women Foundation (GC4W) for its continuous commitment and progress made in women empowerment and gender equality.
Mayar Naguib, Country Marketing and PR manager, Intel Egypt and Levant
Mayar Naguib is another example of a woman that has shown passion and dedication to the IT industry in Egypt. She has been working for Intel Corporation in Egypt for over 10 years, having worked at a number of other multinational corporations in the country prior to that.
As one of the few women in the region’s IT industry, she has devoted her career to creating different marketing and PR campaigns to bridge the digital divide in Egypt by making technology more accessible to a broader audience.
Given the fact that she is one of the few women in the Intel office, Daily News Egypt asked Naguib why she enjoyed working for Intel. She said: “Working for Intel for so long, I have been able to achieve so many things that I may not have been able to do elsewhere. Diversity is an integral part of Intel’s competitive strategy and vision. If you’re lucky enough to work for a company that appreciates women empowerment and gives you the tools to do things, it becomes your shining star to always do more and drive for more success.”
Similar to other women working in the IT field, Naguib’s main challenge is time management between her work and her family. As the mother of two daughters, Naguib is constantly juggling between her personal and professional life.
“However, it is manageable as long as I organise and plan well ahead of time,” according to Naguib. “One thing I have to do before heading to bed each night is ensure that tomorrow’s schedule has no conflict in any way and that everything will go as planned.”
The Information Technology Industry Development Agency (ITIDA) is the Egyptian business partner tasked with building the capacities of the local IT companies, attracting and servicing multi-national IT companies, and growing a qualified, sustainable, and deployable talent pool.
Founded in 2014, ITIDA adheres to a public-private partnership (PPP) to achieve the goals of the IT industry and to create a business environment where cooperation is a salient feature.
ITIDA is the executive IT arm of the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT). With local and international outreach, ITIDA plays a fundamental role as a one-stop-shop for foreign direct investors seeking to enhance their global offerings, using what Egypt has to offer and the competitive advantages of the country.
Asmaa Hosny, CEO of ITIDA
Asmaa Hosny has led the development and execution of business strategies in major regional and local organisations through her 30+ years of working in technology. She has held a number of high-level management positions for over 25 years.
According to ITIDA’s website, Hosny has established key alliances on several strategic initiatives, in addition to a number of successful technology companies with regional and global outreach.
As a pioneer in introducing innovative mobility solutions across various platforms, including mobile financial services, health, and learning, Hosny has accomplished a number of breakthroughs in the execution of large-scale projects.
Hosny has worked closely with the Central Bank of Egypt and other key financial institutions to bring these initiatives to the Egyptian market with the aim of driving economic growth and sustainability.
Hosny began her career at Orascom Group, where for a few years she was a leader in one of the company’s major acquisitions in the health sector.
Through effectively managing regional teams and distribution networks, she successfully implemented large projects in key different sectors.