Saudi women in technology seek ways to lead

Saudi women in technology seek ways to lead

By Layan Damanhouri

RIYADH – Women of various specialties in the IT sector gathered on Wednesday at the Women Spark, an initiative by Microsoft in cooperation with Alawwal Bank that aims to promote innovation and excellence in the career development of women.

“In Saudi Arabia, female graduates in the IT sector are more than half. We see them working in different specialties,” says Deemah Alyahya, executive director of the Developer Experience and Digital Innovation at Microsoft. “I do see major improvements in females in IT.”

Attendance of females is usually higher in events and training, she notes, an indication that there is a passion and willingness to be more visible in the field.

“The challenge is for women to lead positions in senior management. A lot of females continue to become independent contributors and come to a plateau,” says Alyahya who is the first Saudi female to hold an executive position at Microsoft. “They don’t increase their skills because either they don’t have the confidence to become a CTO or CIO.”

Asked about her role in empower women in the industry, she told Saudi Gazette: “My ambition is to empower women in IT in the Kingdom. As a Saudi IT professional, I feel obligated to support other females in this sector and to enable them with knowledge, networking, software, skills, and whatever they need for them to grow. That’s why I created Women’s Spark and want it to expand it more to females in other sectors because we are now going through a digital transformation in all fields and specialties.”

After three years of the initiative, this year alone Women Spark graduated 30 female cloud experts and architects.

Women in various fields shared success stories and discussed ways to collaborate.

Budoor Ashadawi, who is acting manager of an e-commerce store by day and runs her own entrepreneurship venture by night, says women need to empower each other. “Women can do anything they believe in,” she told Saudi Gazette.

Ashadawi hired a majority of her staff Saudi female graduates. “It wasn’t easy but I feel I have an obligation to give back,” she says. “I found that females are not only hard workers, they are loyal and dedicated.”

Young engineer Aljawharah Alqahtani founded Fixtag, a business in repairing mobile phones. “Girls can do anything from fixing to creating things,” she said commenting on the male-dominated sector of mobile repairing.

Sara Oulddaddah, a leading female gamer in the Kingdom, says there is a community reaching up to 15,000 gamers and developers. She says, “We need to empower each other. In the gaming industry, we have amazing developers, artists and talents. I’m hoping to have an industry to have all these ladies to work together.”