There are more women than men at university in nearly two thirds of Middle East countries and yet women remain highly underrepresented in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). In Israel, Arab women make up the most underemployed demographic, with labour participation rates of less than 35%, according to a study by Israel’s Finance Ministry.
There are many obstacles blocking the path to gender-equality in the Middle East. Established social bias means girls are encouraged – in some cases pushed—to focus on marriage and children. Their eventual integration in the workforce is hampered by discrimination, exclusion from certain fields and lack of opportunities.
Although girls and women around the world face these obstacles, Arab girls and women in Israel face the double prejudice of gender-discrimination and institutional discrimination. They are a minority within a minority. Arabs in Israel are underrepresented in government positions, academia and professional circles. Studies show that nearly half of Israel’s Arab population live in poverty.
In order to increase women’s participation in STEM fields, women’s rights activists have argued that there needs to be change at the societal and institutional levels. Girls need to see more female role models and they need access to education and opportunities.
AWSc was founded by seven Arab women researchers in STEM to address the persisting gaps in opportunities for girls and to help them access and thrive in STEM fields.
AWSc seeks to change the way girls think about engineering and science. It wants to promote their enrolment in advanced university degrees and ensure equal opportunities in academia. It raises awareness of the issues facing women during their studies, in their careers and exposes them to the world of entrepreneurship.
AWSc provides training on technical skills like coding as well as in leadership and public speaking through a series of workshops and courses. The organisation targets two main groups: high school students and undergraduates. It introduces girls to STEM fields through learning and networking with mentors and through hands on experience. Mentors are mostly female experts and volunteers who have the same goals as AWSc.
AWSc supports girls and women by connecting them with strategic partners including technical universities and employment organisations. With an organised and highly skilled team, AWSc wants to expand its activities to reach all Arab areas in Israel by recruiting current participants to assume the mantle of building and mentoring a new generation of girls in STEM.