Female entrepreneurs, trailblazers speak out about their contributions shaping tech sector

The Birzeit University’s Student Chapter of Advancing Computing as a Science and Profession Association (ACM-w), and the Arab Women in Computing Association (ArabWIC) organized Women’s Tech Talks on December 8, 2018, at the university to discuss the opportunities provided for women in the technology sector at universities and in local communities.

The student chapter at the university is an initiative created by Nariman Ammar, an assistant professor at the Department of Computer Science, aiming to support, encourage and help elevate the status of female university students in computing and technology in the academic, industrial, and entrepreneurial sectors, in addition to creating networks with international women in computer science organizations.

The talk brought together inspiring female tech entrepreneurs and trailblazers who shared their personal stories of what inspired them to pursue a career in tech, how they got to where they are today, the challenges they faced on the way, and their advice to other women who study or work in the same field.  The women speakers included: Hanan Tbaileh and Gina Kadri from Paltel, Ayah Soufan, Yamama Al-Saka’a, Ruba Awayes and Ala’a Fatayer, regional ambassadors for Technovation challenge, Hanan Atallah and Shahd Assida Googles Developers Group regional ambassadors, Ana’am Raheem representing Gaza Sky Geeks, Nuha Shawahna from the Ministry of Education and Higher Education, and TechWomen Alumni Waed Jabareen.

Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Technology Wasel Ghanem stressed, in his opening speech, the important role that the ACM-w plays at Birzeit University as part of the international wave of engaging women in the computing and IT sectors in Palestine. He said that the faculty aspires to support, inspire, and encourage women in the computing and IT sectors in Palestine. He referenced the high number of female student enrollment in the faculty, which has reached almost 60% of the total number of enrolled students, in comparison with the numbers he witnessed when he first joined the university as an instructor in 1999.  

Ghanem urged female students to continue their academic and career journeys to overcome the cultural and normative challenges that are embedded in their communities about women who study and work in such disciplines.

Chair of the Computer Science Department Samer Alzain emphasized the effective participation of women in the IT and computing sectors in Palestine, noting the quality of their work and dedication to their professions. He expressed his hope to engage more and more women in these disciplines.

Ammar introduced the university’s ACM-w Student Chapter, and its mission, vision, and achievements. “We are proud to announce that the student chapter is part of the ACM international community. We now have 40 registered members, who are very active and efficient in conducting innovative initiatives and participating in local and regional activities. One of the most prominent activities we took part in is testing the new Firefox engine before its official release.”

Wafaa Radwan and Maryam Shaheen, members of the Arab WIC Palestine, along with the ArabWIC Palestine Chapter Co-Chair Razan Qraini, gave an overview about the work of Arab Women in Computing. They noted that today they have 19 chapters in the Arab region, with 6000 members. The Arab WIC in Palestine was formed in 2015 with 100 members, and around 40 active members and university ambassadors. The Arab WIC Palestine organized hackathons, coding events for girls, and mentoring and networking events, in addition to technical seminars for women in computing and technology.

Birzeit University has always been a strong participant at the annual ArabWIC Conference.  A number of female students, teacher assistants, and professors from the Computer Science Department participated in the fifth Annual International Conference on Arab Women in Computing (ARABWIC), held at the American University in Beirut last year.