May 14, 2020
Article published in the journal "Sociology of Islam" by Rana Dajani, Sonali Dhawan and Sara M. Awad.
What Can We Learn?
There has been much scholarly research, especially in the West, exploring the underrepresentation of women and girls in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields. Unfortunately, there is a paucity of research on women in the Middle East, and the elements that drive them to enroll in stem are shrouded by the stereotypical image of the “oppressed Arab women.” Despite the dearth of studies, the available literature has demonstrated that the percentage of women pursuing an education in stem fields is higher in the Middle East in comparison to the West. According to 2015 data from UNESCO, regional averages for the share of female researchers are 39.8 percent for Arab states and 32.3 percent for North America and Western Europe.
In this paper, we ask: what is the Middle East doing differently? How has the region, or at least parts of it, successfully nurtured women in stem? What factors have aided women from the region to study stem subjects? Our modest hope is that gaining a better understanding of this phenomenon will start the larger conversation of intellectual exchange between East and West in a way that has yet to be seen by the world of academia, and that will have a positive impact on females around the globe.