Busy Year, Exciting Events and News!

2016 has been a rewarding year for the Saudi chapter in ArabWIC. We are excited to share with our blog readers some exciting events that the team has been busy planning for. As all women in the field realize how it is very important to represent and participate with each other all around the world, this year the Saudi chapter is going international!

The end of September the ArabWiC Saudi chapter participated in the ACM Celebration Event at the Rocky Mountain Celebration of Women in Computing in Salt Lake City, Utah http://rmcwic.org/. On behalf of the team, Asma Aljuhani presented the Saudi chapter and important statistics of the field, specifically the contribution of women in tech in the region. Great job Asma!

Another exciting upcoming event is, Grace Hopper http://ghc.anitaborg.org ! The biggest event for celebrating women in computing, and this year ArabWIC is going big! The Saudi chapter is contributing with 3 participations.  Dr.Amana Alshawi from KACST is presenting her work in Organizational Transformation: Leading Change to Increase Women’s Inclusion in Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia. In addition to that, she is also chairing 2 sessions. Dr.Areej Awabil is  also charing two sessions in the HCI Track: 1- Creating Natural User Interactions (Microsoft) and 2- The HCI track session.

In addition to contributing to the knowledge at the event, the Saudi chapter encouraged aspiring members to attend and participate. The chapter leadership sought funding for all chapter leaders and whomever reached out to the chapter from Saudi students studying in the USA. We were successful in securing funding for our chapter leadership and in guiding students to funding opportunities abroad. We also encouraged ArabWIC community members to submit proposals for talks, panels and workshops. Not all applications were accepted but it was a learning experience for our members.

Those two events were in the pipeline and brewing and we wanted to share what exciting stuff been going on to keep all of our readers updated! We hope to see some of you there at the upcoming events!

Coding 101 during Summer 2016

QSC Workshop 1

Members of the ArabWIC Qatar Chapter joined to lead the summer program for 50 female students between the ages of 8-17, in partnership with the Qatar Scientific Club, over four weeks from July 17 to August 11, 2016.

Three different levels of workshops were conducted for each age group, to teach basics of coding, application and web design, and introduction to digital technologies.

For the younger students (8-13 years old), we taught programming concepts using social activities from CS-Unplugged online materials, and through simple drag-and-drop coding from Code.org tutorials. At the same time, many group activities were held to demonstrate concepts like loops in programming, and encouraged the student’s pair program.

On the other hand, for the older students, (14-17) we focused on building web and mobile Apps as it was extremely rewarding for them to see their own business app demo up and running! We also had the opportunity to enlighten the group with tech talks, on online privacy, and how the internet works, topics which are not usually covered at school.

Here’s what our mentors had to say about their individual experiences:

Hanan Alshikhabobakr:

img_8335“I believe we were able to change the students’ perspective of Computer Science from a complicated unreachable career path for girls, to a fun, rewarding and potential career option.”

 

 

 

Alaa Moosa:

imag1684“Had a wonderful time working with such a lovely group of girls. I never imagined teaching young girls due to my habit of talking fast, but I was super happy after spending my time with them. This experience made me learn and realize that young Qatari girls have real passion for technology.  I see great future for my genius students especially at this age with such a fast pace of grasping knowledge.”

 

Wafa Waheeda:

img_8330“The programme gave us an opportunity to contribute and clear the misconception that Computer Science is not only about animation and robotics; it is a branch of engineering by itself, engineering how to solve problems and studying about technology. I feel good that I have introduced computer science to the young generation of girls in Qatar, as Computer Science these days is no longer just a career path, but a mandatory skill which every student must be exposed to. Overall it was an amazing experience.”

 

Alina Al-Aswadi:

20160802_180426“It is a delight to interact with girls who are excited about the small details of scientific concepts, logic and programming. One of my favorite interaction was when students asked how they could access tools from home, which we used in class.

I also enjoyed coming up with offline activities that could demonstrate simple programming concepts to the students. My experience with teaching at the Qatar Scientific Club was not only pleasant, but interesting and educational too.”

Hira Ahmed:

imag1686“It feels amazing empowering young kids with even the limited knowledge you have sometimes. Being able to contribute to someone’s education this way is a great feeling which I believe everyone should experience once in their lifetime.”

 

 

 

Nabeeha Fatima:

screenshot-2016-12-16-18-56-42“It was quite rewarding to see and recognize the potential in many students, and realize the impact, of how teaching could inspire young kids to take up programming. One of my most memorable experience would be with respect to one kid, who was not initially interested in programming and had joined the program just for fun. Later, it turned out she was one of the brightest kids in the class, but still not fully convinced to learn or take the workshops seriously. Eventually, when I started describing her about how widespread technology is and what she could pursue in the different fields she was interested in, then she became very enthusiastic. At the end of the Programme, she surprisingly approached me requesting how she could become a member of ArabWIC and get involved!”

 

The QSC administrators were extremely pleased with the first successful collaboration with ArabWIC Qatar and we plan to continue working together in the long term to foster and promote a strong tech community in the country.

 

Train-the-Trainers Arduino Workshop at Princess Noura University

Train the Trainer workshops are designed to provide instructors with the techniques to deliver engaging professional or technical training. The Saudi Arabian ArabWIC chapter recently partnered with the Software and Knowledge Engineering Research Group (SKERG) in delivering a series of Arduino Training workshops for female students in the field of physical computing, an area of applied research that is in great demand in our local research labs (particularly labs involved in ubiquitous computing research), but is not currently offered for female students in the existing academic programs in the central region within the Kingdom.

The workshop was led by Arwa Alabdulkarim, an ArabWIC Saudi Chapter member and researcher in King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology’s Electronics and Photonics Research Labs. The “Train-the-Trainers” workshop was held on the campus of Princess Noura University (PNU) on May 23, 2016.

A total 25 participants took part in the full-day 6-hour workshop. They were trained on the technical background and skills needed for delivering an Arduino training session, and briefed on the curricula requirements for such training programs at different skill levels.

Arduino_TrainTheTrainers_23May2016In this session, workshop moderators prepared new trainers with critical training skills and introduced seasoned Arduino designers, sketchers and practitioners to the latest techniques for introducing physical computing concepts to students and hobbyists in the Arduino Makers communities. Participants started with an introductory session on the Arduino IDE, and then moved to activities that involved assembling and controlling their own circuits. In the session, they had the chance to assemble then reassemble their circuits, to gradually develop an understanding of how to explain the concept for participants with varying technical knowledge in their own Arduino workshops. The program was comprised of 4-6 different lab sessions designed to facilitate exploratory activities for participants to understand Arduino’s potential in different areas of applications.

ArabWIC Participates in Riyadh’s “Teen Spirit” Summer Camp at Prince Sultan University

The Saudi Arabian chapter of ArabWIC partnered with a local university in Riyadh, Prince Sultan University (PSU) for their annual summer program for teenage girls, titled “Teen Spirit”. The summer camp aims to provide youth – ages 13 to 16 years – with a vibrant program promoting creativity, innovation and provide girls with an opportunity to experience the fascinating world of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The chapter’s mentoring coordinator, Aseel Alhadlaq collaborated with local ArabWIC chapter members and established a team for designing and delivering interactive sessions on computing and robotics. Held  on the campus of Prince Sultan University’s colleges for women in Riyadh, Teen Spirit was conducted in the May 28 – June 6, 2016 time frame.

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The ArabWIC team presented a robotics and arduino hands-on session. In this session, Arwa Alabdulkarim, Wafa Alrajhi, Heila Almazrou, Zahraa Alkhormi and Aseel Alhadlaq moderated the session and showcased several robotic creations that were designed and developed in the @HCI_Lab at KSU’s female section of the College of Computer and Information Sciences. Teens started out by learning the basics of assembling circuits, prototyping, design and programming, and then moved on to tinkering with arduino kits provided in collaboration with our partner lab at the Software and Knowledge Engineering Research Group (SKERG) at King Saud University.

Robotics in PSU's "Teen Spirit" Summer Camp in Riyadh

For girls new to computing and STEM, this summer program provided a fun way to explore unfamiliar subjects, and the opportunity for potentially discovering new areas of interest. For girls already interested in STEM, they described enthusiastically how these summer camp sessions built on existing interests or knowledge and sparked interest in pursuing them further. Dr. Areej Al-Wabil, the president of ArabWIC’s Saudi Arabian chapter, highlighted the chapter’s involvement in the Teen Spirit summer camp in 2016 and its role in inspiring the next generation of future women technologists; “We want the camp participants to see the creativity and purpose in computer science – something that’s exciting, fun, and accessible – something they can take with them.” The mentoring coordinator for the Saudi Arabian chapter, Aseel Alhadlaq shared her experience in a recent blog post at the eMentoring website and emphasized the impact of these sessions on the participants in expanding the horizons of teens through hands-on activities.

Experiences such as these effectively encourage and inspire the next generation of women in technology and female STEM professionals, and for that our ArabWIC Saudi chapter acknowledges the generous support of Prince Sultan University’s Center for Community Service and Continuing Education (CCI) and the female section of the Software Engineering Department and members of the HCI Lab and SKERG research group at King Saud University.

ArabWIC Saudi Arabia Chapter Partners with the Saudi Council of Engineers

On the Ramadan evening of June 25, two hundred female Saudi engineers from a wide spectrum of engineering and applied disciplines (computing, engineering and architecture) gathered at the headquarters of the Saudi Council of Engineers in Jeddah for the inaugural event of the Saudi Women in Engineering forum. The event was organized as a traditional Sohour gathering in the holy month of Ramadan, and highlighted the recently established partnership between the Arab Women in Computing ArabWIC local Saudi Chapter and the Saudi Council of Engineers’ committee for Women in Engineering (لجنة المهندسات).

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The participation of our ArabWIC chapter was led by the collaborative efforts of the Saudi Chapter’s ambassador for the Western region of Saudi Arabia, Engineer Samar Abdulate (a recent graduate of Effat University in Jeddah, and currently a graduate student at George Washington University), and the Saudi Council of Engineers (SCE) Women in Engineering elected member in the Western region, Sarah Alharthy.

ArabWIC_SCE_AdvertSpeaking in the event, Dr. Areej Al-Wabil emphasized the need for establishing synergy between professional communities in the Kingdom that aim to support, inspire, retain, encourage collaboration among, increase visibility of and help women in computing and engineering domains advance in their careers.

The event, held at the Saudi Council of Engineers’ headquarters in Jeddah, was hosted and organized by the Saudi Council’s Women in Engineering Committee and was conducted in partnership with two scientific societies, IEEE’s Women in Engineering and ArabWIC’s Saudi Arabian chapter.

Organizers moderated a vibrant program of speakers, from the local and regional communities of professional women in engineering domains, to highlight contributions of women in their professions, raise awareness among female engineers about the roles and responsibilities of the newly established committee for women in the Saudi Council of Engineers, and to learn more about the professional and scientific communities in the different regions of the Kingdom that are dedicated to advancing the role of Women in STEM.

Samar

SCE’s Women in Engineering committee aims to increase the participation and contribution of women on all aspects of engineering and technology. SCE offers various programs designed to help industry, academia and government develop engineering professionals and leaders in their domains. ArabWIC together with SCE’s committee for women and IEEE’s Women in Engineering chapters collectively aim to raise the level of recognition and networking opportunities for women through activities, such as the inaugural event held on Jun 25 and future networking events that span the wide spectrum of regions via SCE Chapters and ArabWIC affiliates in the Kingdom. ArabWIC_SCE_Sarah

The event helped to foster communication and establish communities -both online and offline- for women to connect and share various topics of interest, and affiliate with various organizations that are aligned with providing support and services to women in engineering domains in industry, academia and public sectors.

Engineering and computing define our modern world and they will continue to reshape every part of our future. Our ArabWIC team extend their appreciation to SCE’s Women in Engineering committee for the wonderful initiative, and their generous support for advancing the role of women in engineering and computing domains.

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ArabWIC Partners with KACST in the Genuino Day Event in Saudi Arabia

The ArabWIC Saudi chapter partnered with King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) in organizing the Genuino Day 2016 event on April 2nd, 2016. Genuino Day is an international event celebrating Arduino/Genuino Day worldwide, bringing together people and projects interested and related to Genuino. This year, official Arduino celebrations and their local communities’ events reached 331 events that were held in 68 different countries around the globe. These arduino events gather people from the makers communities, students, experts  and those who are interested in physical computing and STEM from all ages, backgrounds and specialties to share their experience via talks, workshops, demos, and demonstrations of Genuino projects.

GenuinoDayThe event was held at KACST’s conference center in Riyadh, the capital city of Saudi Arabia. The event’s website was established to promote the event in the country and for managing registration. This event was dedicated for women, and the targeted audience were faculty members, researchers, students in pre-university, collegiate and postgraduate programs in addition to anyone interested in technology and engineering from the local female community.

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The number of attendees in this event was around 200 female participants. In the keynote sessions, three ArabWIC leaders from the Saudi Arabia Chapter presented on key topics for the Genuino Day event. The Saudi Arabia ArabWIC Chapter president, Dr. Areej Al-Wabil presented on Scalable Innovation and Technology for Social Good. Dr. Amany Alshawi, presented on ArabWIC’s mission and vision and shared an overview of the progress and achievements of the Saudi chapter in the 2016-2017 timeframe. Dr. Sarah Alhumoud presented an inspiring journey describing the triumphs and challenges she faced in her impressive career in computing from her early days as a student in the Information Technology program at King Saud University, to her leadership roles as the Vice Dean of IT in Imam University and Ibn Khaldun Research Fellow at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence (CSAIL) labs. Our ArabWIC mentoring coordinator, Aseel Alhadlaq also presented a talk on the eMentoring initiative that is being rolled out in collaboration with the ArabWIC Saudi Arabian chapter.

GenuinoDay2015      Aseel

In addition, the event hosted six parallel workshops aligned with three domains: Electronics, Prototyping and Marketing. Three of these workshops were presented by ArabWIC members from the Saudi Arabian chapter and from industry and different research centers at KACST. ArabWIC member, Jumana Almahmoud moderated a workshop on UX Design. ArabWIC member and KACST Research Associate, Samar Alqatari (a recent graduate of Stanford’s Mechanical Engineering program and currently a PhD student enrolled at the University of Chicago studying Computational Physics) presented a workshop on Visual thinking and the Design Process. ArabWIC’s Arwa Alabdulkarim (research at KACST’s Electronics and Photonics Research Lab), also presented a workshop on Sketching with Arduino in which participants learned the basics of building circuits and open source programming with Arduino.

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Genuino2016The Genuino Day 2016 event hosted two exhibitions; the main exhibit was for the event’s partners who participated with talks, workshops, and sponsoring the awards for the projects’ competition winners. The event partners were: Badir Program for Technology Incubators, Dell, Intel, IBTKR Electronics, Rays Co., Arab Women in Computing’s chapter (ArabWIC Saudi Arabia), IEEE’s Women in Engineering WIE–IEEE Saudi Arabia Section. At the partners’ exhibition, visitors had the opportunity to network and learn more about the programs and initiatives offered by these communities for Women in Tech in our local context of Saudi Arabia.

The second exhibition was dedicated for interactive demos and student projects which involved students participating from King Saud University (KSU), Prince Sultan University (PSU), and Princess Noura University (PNU). In this exhibit, students had the opportunity to showcase their projects to visitors and share experiences with the maker communities. ArabWIC’s Saudi chapter was also involved in the Judging Panel for the awards. The creations ranged from creative minimalist designs to complex ubiquitous computing systems that were developed by female students as postgraduate course or dissertation projects in local universities. These include interactive household objects, brain-controlled wheelchairs, threaded sensors in clothing for pollution sensing, and assistive technologies for the visually impaired. Videos showcasing some projects  (Amal Alkhathlan, Mawada Alsabban) demonstrate the intricate details of the design process and contributions towards developing open source solutions for real world problems. The vibrant exhibit attracted many visitors who were actively engaged in tinkering, exploring, and learning more about physical computing, its applied domains and the enthusiastic communities of interest that have emerged in our local Saudi sphere.

GenuinoDay_WIEThe event was recently featured in IEEE’s Women in Engineering newsletter in an article published July 2016. You can tap into our #ArabWIC coverage of the event and the participants’ social conversation by checking out the #يوم_الجنيوينو hashtag and our partners @Makers_SA community, or by visiting the event’s web page at KACST.

ArabWIC Saudi Arabia Chapter Participates in the Women in Technology event at King Khalid University in Abha

Held on the campus of King Khalid University (KKU) on January 27th, the Women in Technology forum gathered thought leaders from across the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to share insights on issues of advancing the role of women in computing and explore how women in technology provide a proven competitive advantage in our local context in both academia and industry. Led by the coordinated efforts of Ashwag Alasmari (ArabWIC’s Saudi Chapter VP), and Asma Aladrees (ArabWIC’s Saudi Chapter Secretary) the forum hosted three panelists from ArabWIC’s Saudi Arabia chapter.

The opening keynote was delivered by the Vice Dean of the College of Computing at KKU, Dr. Areej Al-Asiri. During the event, a series of talks profiled and showcased some amazing women currently making their mark on the local tech community in Saudi Arabia.

CZtNbIzWYAAr7VSSpeakers included ArabWIC’s Vice President for the Saudi Chapter, Ashwag Alasmari (a lecturer at KKU and a PhD student at the University of Maryland), and President of the Saudi Chapter, Dr. Areej Al-Wabil, and Dr. Salha Alzahrani (the Vice Dean of the College of Computing at Taif University and a member in the local Saud advisory board for ArabWIC’s Saudi chapter). Ashwag presented on her experience at the 2015 Grace Hopper Conference and her involvement in ArabWIC and its role in advancing the careers of women in technology. Dr. Areej reflected on her 20 years of experience working with dynamic research teams to rapidly explore and build scalable and useable technology solutions for real world problems at the Human-Computer Interaction Lab at King Saud University and the Center for Complex Engineering at King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology. Dr. Salha shared her experience with Big Data analytics with the audience.

From software engineering to technical project management to user experience design, forum speakers emphasized how a career in technology offers a diverse range of roles and domains for women in Saudi Arabia. These trailblazing women in tech shared their stories and experiences from different fields within the computing domains in Saudi Arabia. Afterwards, the organizers opened up the floor for a Q&A session with KKU students and faculty of the College of Computer Science at KKU. Attendees had the opportunity to connect with others interested in information technology, software engineering, information systems and computer science.

Following that, student projects were showcased in the exhibit of the forum, and students presented their capstone projects and ongoing research projects to the president of the ArabWIC Saudi chapter, Dr. Areej Al-Wabil who was accompanied by the Vice Dean, Dr. Al-Asiri in their rounds in the exhibit. The exhibit showcased impressive work conducted by female students at KKU who were involved in the ideation, design and implementation of the applied computing project as part of their capstone requirements; and the forum provided them with the opportunity to present the final outcome of their work to panelists in the forum, faculty in the college as well as their peers in the university.

 The presentations for the forum speaker are available online via the link for Dr. Areej’s talk on Prototyping and Complex Systems Engineering, Dr. Salha’s talk on Big Data, and Ashwag’s talk on ArabWIC.

ArabWIC Saudi Arabia Chapter Hosts a Webinar for Graduate Students

Technology-intensive fields, such as high tech, oil, and energy, have grown rapidly in the 21st century in Saudi Arabia, far outstripping other industries. It’s no secret that women in tech roles in STEM fields — science, technology, engineering, and math — face significant challenges in local, regional and global contexts. Research shows that women leave the technology field at twice the rate as men. Although these are sobering numbers, and the complexity of the problem has numerous dimensions, we know that there ARE successful women leaders in tech who have overcome these statistics and gone on to higher levels of success, without derailing their careers or opting out.

What can be learned from their experiences? The Saudi chapter of ArabWIC sought answers to this recurring question by organizing a webinar in 2016 dedicated to the topic of surviving graduate studies for women in technology fields. The webinar was held on May 25, 2016 and moderated by Asma Aljuhani, our Saudi Chapter Webinar Coordinator, and Aseel Alhadlaq, our Saudi Chapter Mentoring Coordinator, and Nour Alkhalil, our Saudi Chapter’s website Coordinator.

pasted image 66Panelists in the webinar were from different computing backgrounds and were enrolled in graduate programs across the spectrum of theoretical and applied computing. Three participants were members of the Software and Knowledge Engineering Research Group (SKERG) and Human-Computer Interaction @HCI_Lab in King Saud University, a multidisciplinary research lab in the capital city of Riyadh and a leading HCI research center in the region. SKERG members included Najwa Alghamdi, Lecturer in King Saud University and PhD student at Sheffield University in the UK; Weaam Alrashed, TA in the Software Engineering Department of King Saud University and MSc student at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada; and Dr. Sharifa Alghowinem, Assistant Professor at Prince Sultan University and Alumnus of Australia National University. Georgia Tech’s PhD student, Huda Alamri also joined the panel and shared insights from her journey in graduate studies. It was interesting to note from the webinar’s discussion and journeys of our panelists that in true moments in which some female CS Postgrad students felt overwhelmed or wanted to quit, what would have helped them more than anything was to see other women in the rooms, classes and labs they were in.. other women who were making it work. Driven by a desire to contribute towards building a community of women mentoring women, and motivated by a desire to help other women advance in the field of computing, our webinar’s women panelists shared authentic experiences and took the time to reach out and engage with the communities of women in tech and reflect on their issues.

Najwa      Najwa2

Webinar moderators conducted an in-session poll to better understand the audience’s background and align it with the ongoing discussion and topics in the conversation. The polls showed that the largest group of the attendees was MSc students enrolled in computing programs, followed by the Bachelor degree students, then the group of PhD students. Although this webinar was targeting graduate students, undergraduate students indicated that their participation contributed towards feeling motivated and inspired to pursue further studies in the field simply from observing the flow of dialog in the webinar and topics being discussed. On another poll, responses indicated that this webinar’s audience was mostly studying or interested to study in the United States followed by an interest to study -or currently studying – in the United Kingdom. Therefore, webinar moderators along with the panelists elaborated on their educational experience in these countries.

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Webinar moderators and panelists interacted with the audience with insights and authentic experiences that resonated well, not only with webinar participants but with a broader audience of women in tech, and this consequently helped build closer connections between Saudi women studying abroad in disparate fields within the domain of computing. Notably, aligned with recently introduced scholarship programs in the Kingdom, Saudi Arabia ranks 4th in the international student body in US public and private higher education institutions (preceded only by China, India and South Korea) with approximately 60,000 students in the US. Thus the issues, challenges, and opportunities for female Saudi postgraduate students and early career researchers was a timely topic for discussion and sparked the interest of our Women in Tech community in Saudi Arabia to carry on the discussion along those lines in future webinars.

The webinar is available at ArabWIC’s YouTube channel via this link.

ArabWIC’s Saudi Arabia Chapter Participates at the ArabNet Conference in Riyadh

In order to build a critical mass of women as Information Technology leaders, innovators and leaders in prominent positions in our Saudi community’s IT workforce (from academia, industry, and the public sector) have the opportunity to shape the future of IT in Saudi Arabia.  Women in leadership positions and successful female innovators often inspire the new generation of rising stars in technology domains, and contribute towards developing the skills of aspiring young females embarking on their career path in technology. Launched in Dec 2015, the “Women Mentoring Women” program was offered as part of the ArabNet 2015 conference program in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Held at the Four Seasons Hotel, a speed mentoring program was designed for women who are interested in, or who by virtue of their position in an organization, share a passion for advancing other women in our technology community in Saudi Arabia.

WomenMentoring_ArabNet2015The ArabWIC Saudi Arabia Chapter participated in the mentoring session in ArabNet’s Riyadh event, one of the largest digital gatherings in the the MENA region. ArabNet aims to grow the web and mobile sectors in the Arab world through its activities. Also, it helps to build business bridges across the MENA region, and support the creation of new businesses and job opportunities for aspiring youth.

ArabNet Riyadh 2015 hosted the mentoring and networking session on Wednesday, Dec 16, titled “Women Mentoring Women” to support and mentor female attendees; providing them with meaningful insights into the sector’s local context and opportunities to grow their perspective. The event featured distinguished high-caliber female individuals, ranging from deans in computing disciplines, entrepreneurs and IT decision makers to IT business leaders and technology market experts.

The Saudi Arabia Chapter of ArabWIC participated in this mentoring session with three leaders from ArabWIC’s Saudi chapter, Dr. Areej Al-Wabil (Saudi Chapter President), Ashwag Alasmari (Saudi Chapter Vice President, and Social Media coordinator) and Fatimah Alabadrabalnabi (Saudi Chapter event coordinator).

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The “Women Mentoring Women” session was designed to engage female attendees at ArabNet Riyadh with regional and international women leaders. This session allowed women leaders to tap into female entrepreneurial innovation and provided an opportunity for female entrepreneurs to connect with mentors via in-depth discussions about how to advance their careers and enhance their role in their organizations. Overall, the speed-mentoring session lasted 1 hour 30 minutes with a structured flow of sessions for meeting with the women attendees. This hour and a half consisted of a series of 5-minute slots amounting to 18 meetings during which female attendees networked briefly rotating between mentors. As evident from the turnout for the “Women Mentoring Women” session at ArabNet Riyadh 2015 and the level of engagement of Saudi female youth with mentors in this event (in-person and online after the session), the new generation of Saudi youth seems to be taking steady steps towards carving out their own path of success and gaining momentum in the transition towards a knowledge economy.

Dr. Areej Al-Wabil, a mentor in ArabWIC and president of the Saudi Arabian Chapter of ArabWIC, highlighted the contribution of this mentoring program after the event, “ArabNet’s session was an incredible platform for women leaders to explore a largely untapped source of entrepreneurial innovation and tech talent in Saudi Arabia. The mentoring session created a space for female entrepreneurs to actively discuss ways to advance their careers and connect with local and regional female leaders and role models. Growing the talent of Women in Tech in the region is a bigger task than one entity’s reach, hence the need for us to work together in order to build bridges across the technology, education and innovation sectors in Saudi Arabia to stimulate growth and build synergy. We recognize that ArabNet is the hub for Arab digital professionals and entrepreneurs, and women in Saudi Arabia are realizing that ArabNet’s online and offline platforms provide invaluable opportunities for them to connect, learn and grow. ArabWIC aims to inspire, retain, encourage collaboration among, increase visibility of and help advance the careers of women in technology and we are always ready and willing to collaborate with entities that align with our vision and objectives.

tttReflecting on the mentoring event, Ashwag Alasmari, the Vice President of the Saudi Chapter of ArabWIC added, “I am very delighted to be part of the ArabNet women mentoring session and represent ArabWIC organization as ArabWIC chapter leader in Saudi Arabia and social media coordinator.  It was really an inspiring experience talking to other women interested in technology from different sectors and hearing their stories. The session was successful in terms of having the mentors ranging from academia, entrepreneurs to IT business leaders and technology market experts. That made the discussion more efficient for the attendees to share their thoughts or inquiries with guidance by distinguished leaders.”

Participants in the “Women Mentoring Women” program in ArabNet Riyadh explored issues facing female IT students, business owners and members of the computing academic communities. The session established connections with female mentors who contributed to strengthening individual talents and skills needed to work more effectively and efficiently in Saudi Arabia’s technology fields, and provided female mentees and rising stars with the tools needed to develop peers, co-workers, protégées and other IT business owners. Additionally, the program provided opportunities for networking, as participants rotated between mentors in the program and engaged with several mentors from a distinguished group of the most prominent women leaders in technology in Saudi Arabia from CellA, ArabWIC, and local universities and businesses as well as women leaders from the region.

 

mentoring2015_arabwicOur Saudi ArabWIC team extends their sincere appreciation to Fatima Mousa, ArabNet’s Senior Program Executive, and Racha Ghamlouch for the opportunity to take part in ArabNet Riyadh’s “Women Mentoring Women” program and their generous support by engaging with our local professional Women in Tech communities that aspire to develop the interest and confidence of Women in Tech in Saudi Arabia so as to persist and succeed in technology programs and careers.

More on the event can be found by exploring the #عرب_نت_الرياض and #ArabNetRiyadh2015 hashtags or visiting the ArabNet website.

About the Grace Hopper Celebration for Women in Computing 2015

On Monday, December 21, 2015, Arab Women in Computing (ArabWIC) ran their second talk in a series of online Tech Talks around various technology topics targeting their global membership. The talk was about the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing (GHC) 2015, which was held between October 24 and October 26, 2015 in Houston, Texas. The talk was organized, managed and hosted by Ghida Ibrahim, ArabWIC VP of programs with the help of Alaa Shaheen from ArabWIC Mentoring committee.

The talk mainly aimed at spreading knowledge about the history and impact of the GHC, at shedding light on ArabWIC involvement and participation in this conference and, finally, at sharing guidelines about the participation to this conference for all ArabWIC membership who wish to be part of it in the future.

The history and impact of the GHC:

Jody Mahoney, Senior Vice president of business development at the Anita Borg Institute (ABI), gave the audience a brief overview about the GHC. Motivated by a clear lack of women’s presence in the computing field, the GHC was founded by Dr. Anita Borg and  Dr.Telle Whitney in the 1990s. Considered today as the largest gathering for women technologists worldwide, the GHC has attracted around 12000 women technologists in 2015 compared to around 500 at its launch in 1994. Attendees, including students, scientists, industry professionals and entrepreneurs coming from over 65 countries, had the opportunity to hear from around 700  outstanding speakers and to attend over 200 sessions. Dr. Kaouthar El Maghraoui, ArabWIC co-chair and Research Scientist at IBM, highlighted that GHC 2015 was characterized by a particularly rich set of tracks covering topics such as data science, the Internet of Things, machine learning, software development, user/computer interface, Open Source technologies and career development. GHC 2015 also had an exceptional set of speakers including US technology officer Megan Smith, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, Carnegie Mellon professor Manuela M. Veloso and Fast Forward Labs CEO Hilary Mason.
Initially occurring every 3 years, the high success of the GHC has contributed to it becoming a yearly event and to its expansion to new territories such as India where the first local GHC happened in 2010. GHC is expected to continue its expansion to Africa and to the Arab world in 2017 in addition to the global GHC happening in the US each year. GHC 2016 will happen in Houston, Texas in October 2016 and is expected to attract around 15000 attendees.


ArabWIC participation and involvement in the GHC:

Prof. Sana Odeh, ArabWIC founder and computer science professor at NYU and NYUAD, explained that, as an official chapter of ABI, ArabWIC has been actively participating to the GHC since 2012. In particular, 6 to 7 ArabWIC members and leaders have received scholarships from the Qatar Computing Research Institute (QCRI) in order to attend the GHC during 2014 and 2015, respectively. GHC 2015 also featured an ArabWIC reception and a panel session on global leadership  moderated by Prof. Odeh. ArabWIC co-chair, Dr. Kaouthar El Maghraoui, was the program co-chair for GHC 2015 and has been selected as the general co-chair for GHC 2016.
ArabWIC members and leaders attending the GHC benefit from a huge opportunity to get inspired and build connections with women leaders in the computing field. During the talk, we heard from five ArabWIC leaders about their feedback after attending GHC 2015.Houda Chakiri, Founder and CEO of the Morocco-based Enhanced Technologies, told us that, after attending GHC 2015, she organized hours of code in order to introduce children in her community to science and computing. Alaa Shaheen, Software Engineer at  Progineer Technologies in Palestine, said that GHC 2015 has inspired her to always learn new things and to give back to the community. This inspiration was shared by Fatima Djoudjou, Software Engineer and Dr. Manar Abu Talib, Professor at University of Sharjah in the UAE, who said that the GHC encouraged her to dream big and to be a messenger of her field to the community. Yasmin Alnoamy, PhD candidate at Old Dominion University, stressed that computer literacy, including the knowledge of how algorithms and the internet work, is nowadays a must for everyone including children.  As a frequent attendee of the GHC, she said that the impressive evolution of the conference over the last years was a incentive for her to take initiatives, start now and always aim high. Yasmin wrote an elaborated blog about GHC 2015 which you can find here.
ArabWIC aims at increasing its participation in the GHC in the coming years and at taking the leadership in the organization of the first GHC in the Arab world  in Morocco in July 2017. Dr. El Maghraoui mentioned the call for papers and for scholarships applications for GHC 2016 will open end of January and will last till end of March. Dr. El Maghraoui and Prof. Odeh highlighted that the  ArabWIC leadership will put tremendous efforts in order to allow more of ArabWIC leaders to attend GHC 2016.

ArabWIC Reception at GHC 2015

Guidelines about attending GHC:

There is no single formula for attending the GHC. Mrs. Mahoney highlighted that a call for GHC scholarships is opened each year by ABI and that GHC scholarships applications follow a strict review process involving three reviewers. Applicants are selected based on their achievements but also on their leadership potential. Prof. Odeh mentioned that QCRI has provided full scholarships to some of ArabWIC members and leaders in the past three years and that, even though the selection process is different from ABI, the selection criteria remain quite similar. Both GHC and QCRI scholarships cover all expenses including conference registration, lodging, food and airfare. Prof. Odeh equally mentioned that many companies and universities including Google, Cisco and NYU provide sponsorship to their female employees or students in order to attend the GHC. She urged ArabWIC members to investigate sponsorship opportunities within their local organizations. Dr. El Maghraoui advised interested audience to follow  ArabWIC media channels onFacebook and Linkedin and ArabWIC website in order to be aware of scholarships openings and to be better informed about the application process.

At the end of the talk, the ArabWIC leadership promised to organize a dedicated webinar when the call for scholarships for GHC is open in order to assist interested ArabWIC membership in preparing their applications. In the meantime, you can view the slides presented during the tech talk here and watch the recorded video here.

 

Ghida Ibrahim,