Taking the Lead
The tech sector is notoriously male-dominated. This is ever apparent in Silicon Valley in the U.S., a country where women make up 59 percent of the workforce, but only hold 30 percent of jobs in the tech industry. This disconnect is keeping the industry back, but it doesn't exist everywhere. In Lebanon, things are changing for the better.
The Lebanese tech sector is also still very much dominated by men. However, programs like SE Factory, a bootcamp of sorts that prepares young people to enter the field, are starting to make changes. Asia Joumaa, a web developer at Pixel38 who graduated as a top student from the program, said, "I've always wanted to work as a web developer, and then I got into SE Factory, which helped me get there. There’s a lot of young women who want to get into tech here in Lebanon.” She and many others are showing how, as long as the support and educational resources exist, more and more women will be able to access these careers.
One example of how the Lebanese tech sector is changing lies within the Beirut Digital District (BDD), which is a major tech center located in the capital city. The BDD supports a massive percentage of tech work that is done within the country, approximately 70 companies (SE Factory among them). And, within this bustling tech hub, 55 percent of the work is done by women. And, while this isn't the end of gender disparity in the Lebanese tech sector (executives are still represented by an 80-20 ratio of men to women), it is a sign that things are moving in the right direction.
One of the many Lebanese women who has worked with the unique challenges of life in Lebanon (which offers an incredible education system, but experiences consistent issues with politics, power outages, and slow internet) to create something incredible is Nadine Haram. She is the co-founder of Proximie, an augmented reality platform for virtual surgical training. This program could be a life-saving addition in war zones and other areas of conflict, along with remote locations. She graduated from an accelerator program at BDD, the U.K. Lebanon Tech Hub, and exemplifies what can happen with the correct support.
Closing the gender gap in the tech sector is not trivial by any means. Balancing this inequality is vital to the future of the field itself, future technologies, and the global economy. Women make up slightly more than half of the total U.S. population. And, while they consume tech and engage with social media and apps just as much as (if not more than) men, women make up only 17% of Google's, 15% of Facebook's, and 10% of Twitter's engineers. So, while women might be very involved with tech, they do not have a significant input on what is created and how. This is a massive setback for the future of developing technologies. How can innovation flourish when over half of the population's input is left out of the conversation?
Additionally, as more and more women enter the tech sector, the economy will benefit and the gender pay gap will begin to close. Higher earnings, that are often accompanied by jobs in the tech sector, will help us all to reach these goals. So...how do we do it? Simply, though there are many steps along the way, through support. By making the tech sector a space that accepts and considers the ideas of people of all genders. By creating programs like the SE Factory that focus on young people and help them develop their skills and interests. By continuing to advance our educational systems to ensure that all students are granted equal and quality experiences so that one day, every student who has an interest in tech will have the capacity to make their dreams a reality.