This February 11th marks the 7th International Day of Women and Girls in Science, and serves as a way to highlight the significant achievements that women are making in the world of science and technology. Women have been breaking glass ceilings and taking on some of the leading positions in the world of business for many decades. However, it is only in the last decade that they are getting the appreciation and exposure they deserve.
To help shed light on the achievements of women, we brought to you 7 of the most iconic figures in the MENA region in science and technology:
1. Dr Hajar Mousannif
Associate professor and coordinator of the master program in Data Science at the Cadi Ayyad University in Morocco, Dr. Hajar Mousannif, is widely known for her expertise in the field and has received a number of rewards for her achievements, including being the winner of the “WomenTech Global AI Inclusion Award“ in 2020. She is also well known for her work in artificial intelligence (AI) and for developing the first humanoid Moroccan robot, Shama, which has received the support of an American start-up.
2. Dr. Habiba Al Safar
Emirati research scholar, Dr. Habiba Al Safar, is one of the pioneer Arab women in the field of science who was awarded the International L'Oréal-UNESCO Fellowship for Women in Science, and is also the director of Khalifa University’s biotechnology department. Her work revolves around finding personalized preventive medicines for diseases that can be detected early, especially in the human genome in Arabs.
3. Dr. Malak Abed AlThagafi
Dr. Malak Abed Al Thagafi is currently the General Director of the General Directorate for National RDI coordination at King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology, and holds several other key positions. Dr. Malak aspires to improve the overall healthcare in KSA, with personalized medicine and targeted therapy being at the center of her work. She has also worked on a large number of publications, including the 5th edition of WHO CNS tumors classification reference book “ blue book”.
4. Noor Shaker
With the drive to revolutionize medicine and cure diseases using AI, Syrian biotech entrepreneur, Noor Shaker, founded Glamorous AI, a company that utilizes AI to discover new drugs and treatments. Her company was later acquired by a leader in DNA-encoded library (DEL) technology, X-Chem, where she became the senior vice president and general manager. In addition, Noor was mentioned in MIT’s 2018 Innovators Under 35.
5. Professor Abla Mehio Sibai
As a researcher and public health activist, Lebanese professor Abla aims to improve healthy aging in low- and middle- income countries as well as its impact on social and health aspects. Her outstanding work in the field has helped her receive the 2020 L’Oréal-UNESCO award For Women in Science International Award for Africa and the Arab States.
6. H.E. Sarah Al Amiri
Her Excellency Sarah Al Amiri is currently the UAE Minister of State for Advanced Technology and Chairwoman of the UAE Space Agency. In both of her roles, she has worked to push for the adoption of advanced technologies and improve research in STEM. Her Excellency also led the first Arab mission to Mars in February 2021, and was honored as one of the World Economic Forum’s 50 Young Scientists in 2015.
7. Nora Al Matrooshi
First female Arab astronaut, Nora Al Matrooshi, was named as one of the 5 Arab Women Who Made History in 2021 by Forbes. In 2021, Al Matrooshi was chosen from thousands of candidates to embark on a two year training program with NASA starting 2022. Al Matrooshi is 28 years old and aspires one day to play a key role in the developing the space sector in UAE.
Each and every one of these pioneers has made significant advancements in science, and while each one of them focuses on different things, they all aspire to encourage Arab women in pursuing a career in science.
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