Women researchers at HBKU celebrate International Women in Engineering Day
As Qatar emphasizes strong women leaders such as Her Highness Shaikha Moza bint Nasser, Shaikha Hind bint Hamad Al Thani, Sheika al-Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, Her Excellency Lolwah bint Rashid Al-Khater, who has inspired the young generation to keep pursuing their goals and ambitions, four senior research directors at Qatar Environment and Energy Research Institute (QEERI), part of Hamad Bin Khalifa University, shared their insights, inspirations, challenges and advice for young engineers as the world marks International Women in Engineering Day.
All four women leaders reiterate the importance of having support from family, colleagues, and society as all four leaders live by the same mantra – believe in yourself and your capabilities encouraging women to pursue their dreams.
Each of them emphasized the importance of parents who empowered them to pursue their goals, spouses who took equal parenting and household chores, bosses, and colleagues who trusted them to achieve their targets.
Dr. Huda Al Sulaiti
(Senior Research Director, Natural and Environmental Hazards Observatory, QEERI)
Dr. Huda Al Sulaiti who completed Ph.D. while also fulfilling her role as a full-time mother to five children said, “Nothing ever comes easy, and there will always be struggles as we move on in this life and we are certainly not alone in the challenges we face.
Dr. Al Sulaiti, who has also combatted breast cancer successfully, says that one of the key challenges facing women is the work-life balance. “A glass ceiling still exists for women in STEM fields but, fortunately, it is slowly diminishing. Women are held back because of the misconception that they have to devote more of their time towards childcare and household chores. Sometimes, there are also judgments that they are not as competent and are emotionally driven.”
Dr. Huda Al Sulaiti shared a wonderful message to young engineers:
“Take up a new challenge each day; learn something new, push the boundary a little bit at every step. Focus on your strengths and not the negativity that may try to pull you down’’.
Dr. Veronica Bermudez
Dr. Veronica Bermudez, who was astonished to see a ‘Physics for Women’ university degree in 1996 says: “The biggest challenge was understanding that my fight is not about being a woman in a man’s world, but about being myself, keeping my specialty, knowing and propagating that diversity is key for success.”
Change is indeed coming, says Dr. Bermudez. “I think it’s just a matter of time. Even when I look at the options that were available to my mother, and now to myself – there is a vast difference. Women are gaining more rights and leadership positions now more than ever before.”
Dr. Bermudez shared a wonderful message to young talents:
“Just be yourself. Follow your feelings and beliefs. Know that you have it in you to break the glass ceiling, and to succeed. Even when it looks difficult, trust your instinct, hold your head high, and keep marching forward.”
Dr. Jenny Lawler
(Senior Research Director, Water Center, QEERI)
Dr. Jenny Lawler who graduated with a degree in Chemical Engineering in 2004 said: “I am an optimist, and while there have been challenges in my career so far, life gets better every year. I have always enjoyed working hard, aiming high, and taking great joy in every little win.”
The challenges faced by women are indeed unique according to these four pioneers. For example: often, maternity leave is a period that is not taken into account in terms of comparing career stages. However, with a slightly different perspective, Dr. Lawler mentions that she did not ever feel subject to the same stigma or treatment while working as an engineer in the pharmaceutical industry in Ireland.
“I have been lucky to have always felt empowered to succeed, surrounded by positive people and mentors, both in industry and in academia. By working hard and showing that I’ve had what it takes to succeed, I’ve always quickly gained acceptance and moved quickly into leadership positions”.
Dr. Lawler shared a wonderful message to the young generation:
“Be confident. Be a role model for young people. Don’t be afraid to admit when you don’t know something, and be ready to find out.''
Dr. Hanan Farhat
( Senior Research Director, Corrosion Center)
Reflecting on a time when she was the only woman engineer among many male field operators working
on a scheduled shutdown at an oil and gas company in Qatar a few years ago, Dr. Hanan Farhat, Senior
Research Director, Corrosion Center, said: “As a female engineer, I have faced many obstacles. The biggest challenge for me was making my male peers accept that we are equal and that we all deserve respect and the same opportunities.”
Dr. Farhat explains: “In this part of the world, women in engineering are often expected to do more to prove themselves. In many places, there is the stigma that women cannot partake in hands-on work, and are not good at problem-solving, as a result, they are given non-challenging tasks that are routine and repetitive.”
Dr. Farhat shared a wonderful message to young engineers:
“Keep on trying, and believe in yourself. It will not be easy, but you will be able to get there. Change is not going to happen in one day. It will happen gradually, but if you do not try, you will never get there.”
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Source& image credit: Hamad Bin Khalifa University