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Category Archives: social media

Women in Computing Workshop

Today I spoke at the NYU Abu Dhabi workshop on Women in Computing in the Arab World. I was struck by the uniformity of challenges the speakers presented.  I was also encouraged to see a room full of role-models to rising women Engineers, Computer Scientists, Professors and Professionals.

Across the Arab world. participants in the Women in Computing workshop reiterated the same challenges.  Barriers to women in technology:

  • family responsibility
  • lack of confidence
  • low role models

“Consumerism in the Arab world plagues society, if you have money to consume it..why produce it? is the mode of operations” said Fatima Abu Salem Associate Professor at AUB.  Fatima’s superb delivery, keen focus on complex challenges and willingness to bring her personal experience made her presentation fabulous and informative.  She addressed issues that at the surface seem small, yet have wide implications.  Issues such as:

  • flexibility in working hours
  • maternity leave..and its impact on tenure
  • women leadership style – seeking community and connection.. not always looking for pure individual gain.
  • bosses don’t think they can rely on women in travel.. “males are bargains, can throw them into cheep hotels.. women need more pampering”
  • finding the right measuring tools for women: “what kind of male literacy are we comparing female literacy against?  don’t just look at quantity.. look at quality..”
  • not just encourage women to get a degree in computing.. look at how we can make it sustainable.
  • Policies.. for women.. we are not men in skirts!

Professor Amir Zeid spoke with passion about his gender research.  “40% female in classrooms in Kuwait, compared to 10% in Carnegie Mellon. The percentages are on the decline from 47 down to 34% that’s not because less women are interested in technology, rather more are interested in Engineering; a program that recently started at the University is a magnet for female students with enrolling 60% women.”

The university mandated a gender segregation program.  Prof. Zeid was forced to teach the same class, one for males and one females.  Prof. Zeid used different examples for his male & female classes, noted differences in knowledge acquisition.  That lead Prof. Zeid to start a study on the effect of gender segregation in the classroom. Findings included:

  • improved performance in both male and female classrooms
  • female in single gender classes out-performed males in other classes. – perception was that males knew better. when removed from class, female performance improved.

Questionnaire on why more females chose computer science in this region..

  • teaching jobs easier..
  • husband wants me to be a teacher
  • work for public sector..

East & West, perceive computer science as masculine..

when asked why they got in:

  • follow suit of mother
  • want to prove myself

Dr. Amany Al-Shawi – women division manager at The National Program of electronics, Communications, and Photonics at KACST

Collaboration between Academic Sector and Private sector:

  • Saudi – virtually non existent. private sector needs to be “told” to collaborate.. like the tax incentives in the USA
  • Lebanon – Very meager, under-developed capacity to contribute to research in the private sector
  • Morocco – mandatory in the undergrad and graduate level for internships, EU fund mandates collaboration w private sector for grants.

Alice Bonhomme-Biais is a software engineer working on crisis response at google.org based in NY.

Did Facebook create the Egypt revolution?

  • it helped with horizontal expansion across social classes
  • it gave us a compounded effect.. lending experiences from Tunisia

FB was used inside the country.. Twitter reached outside the country.  Social Media increased the “emotional density” Hizb elKanabah.. joined through social media.

The innovation panel provided amazing insights into research and development in fuzzy logic, the semantic web, augmented reality, web analytics, crowd sourcing and much more.

I presented on the challenges facing female entrepreneurs investing in technology ventures, and the opportunities to support them:

http://www.slideshare.net/rchakaki/nyu-abu-dhabi-women-in-computing-workshop

View more presentations from rchakaki
Key calls to action are included in the slides above.
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Benevolent Business

Benevolent Business

The term Social Entrepreneur is increasingly becoming synonymous with a modern-day super-hero, sans the streamlined spandex get-ups (thankfully). Social entrepreneurs emerge as people from all walks of life, yet there are common elements that earn them the recently-coined title. They are creative beings, ones who have become cognizant of the fact that they can make a difference in the world and are fueled by that belief to create positive change. Similar to other members in their family tree–political entrepreneurs, business entrepreneurs and the like–these figures are not afraid to transcend the status quo and tread the road less travelled by if they believe it will yield results.

Innovative ideas are their ambrosia, sheer doggedness their nectar. A heightened sense of awareness of social strife and system failure drives them to dissect the social infrastructure, identify problem sources and use their outside-of-the box approach to overcome resource restrictions and find viable solutions to the issues. Whereas business entrepreneurs’ concern lays largely in the business sector social entrepreneurs’ tackle the social and environmental realm. The myriad issues they take on include disease prevention and human rights issues.

Nowadays there is a growing industry that caters to the likes of such upstanding citizens. Renowned universities are implementing programs that provide prospective entrepreneurs with the necessary skills to see them off in their endeavors. The Skoll Foundation, launched in Oxford University in 2003 is dedicated to serving, “social entrepreneurs in their pursuit to achieve a more equitable, prosperous, sustainable world.”[1] Other institutions that support the burgeoning field of social enterprise include Harvard University, whose Catherine B. Foundation Fellowships are, “designed to equip individuals for national leadership positions that bring the real-world insights of management and entrepreneurship to bear on social problems.”[2]

But the initiatives do not end there. As Social entrepreneurs are increasingly making their voices heard, communities are doing their part to connect them to one another and the public at large in an effort to strengthen the cause. Networking companies are establishing liaisons between such public figures, allowing them to share their inspirational experiences, their avant-garde thoughts on current affairs, and their future aspirations. Baraka.is, an online venture started by The Baraka Group, revolves around an incremental concept where, “Social entrepreneurship meets social networking.”[3] Our values-based company is an example of the community’s desire to spur this wondrous movement.

The world could do with more people like Muhammed Yunus who epitomizes the Social Entrepreneur. His initiative involved implementing a policy of micro-finance to poverty-stricken regions in Bangladesh, in order to encourage self-sufficiency and proper integration into the socio-economic structure. Jeff Skoll, a proponent of the movement who has carried out like-minded schemes, described the basis of his film-making industry, “Time and time again you see this outpouring from people once they’re made aware they can do something. That’s the principle that drives this company.” It is up to the global community to support social entrepreneurs in their cause to keep this going.