by Keren Setton
JERUSALEM, June 6 (Xinhua) — As women continue to make headway in the tech world, further progress is still needed.
Late last month, in a conference on workforce diversity in Europe, Middle East and Africa, achievements were lauded, while it is agreed that more work shall be done.
The conference was held online with 3,000 attendees, broadcast on various social media platforms. Palestinian and Israeli women shared their stories. While their challenges and experiences are different, there are similarities in the journey women take which was previously a career path designated for men only.
Gal Moshe, a 31-year-old Israeli woman who works in Microsoft as a software developer, was one of the speakers at the conference. She had studied psychology and management and began working at Intel as an analyst. She says it was difficult for her to make the transition to work in hi-tech because of pre-existing perceptions.
“I thought it was the place for a male who studied computers from the age of 14,” she told Xinhua. “I had a lot of self-doubt.”
Moshe started studying computer science at the age of 27, older than most of her classmates.
“I fell in love with what I could do, to plan complicated things and deal with huge amounts of data and logic,” Moshe said.
Today she is developing a new product for Microsoft in the field of Internet of Things security.
Several surveys conducted in Israel amongst females indicate that the majority of them say there is less representation of women in the tech sector because they are directed from a young age to choose different professions.
In recent years, there has been a steady increase in the world in the percentage of women working in hi-tech field, but it is still not enough. In addition, many of the women work in administrative positions in tech firms.
Haneen Abu Farha is a Palestinian living in the West Bank. At the age of 35, she is a diversity sourcer and technical recruiter for a wide range of tech companies around the world.
She studied computer science and has a master degree in business administration. While in the Palestinian territories, the education gap between males and females has steadily shrunk, the participation rate in the tech workforce has not seen the same change yet.
“The problem that I see for women in the tech sector in the region is that you will find a lot of women studying, but when you look at the workforce you won’t find many,” Abu Farha told Xinhua.
“It’s still a boy’s club,” she said. “Even if you are willing to join and compete for what is yours, you still need support of people around you.”
Abu Farha shared an experience when she was declined a job because the recruiters thought she could not stay in the office late at night, without even asking whether she would.
“It’s on us women to make our voices heard,” Abu Farha said.
Similar to the tech sector all over the world, both in Israel and Palestine, there is a constant shortage of skilled workers. This is where diversity comes in. According to Abu Farha, companies benefit from a diverse workforce.
“Diversity turns into more money,” she explained, noting companies with more diverse employees likely get more return investment.
Gal Moshe suggested constantly challenging people’s perceptions about women. “A lot of people think that being a software engineer is sitting and coding all day, but that’s not true. People need to look at the whole picture.”
“Women need to dare and open their minds. Women can do this by initiating and improving products and their development,” she added.
According to Abu Farha, the struggle of women in hi-tech field may be less intense than in the past, but it is still there and is common to all women.