Updated: Oct 25
GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY IN QATAR (Mar. 20, 2023) In recognition and commemoration of Women’s History month, FIF (Future is Female) and in collaboration with Hamad bin Khalifa University, The Georgetown Gazette, Muslim Students Association, and Al-Liwan Club, hosted their annual conference with the theme “Female on the Frontline.” The conference was headed by four incredible guest speakers, who are leading figures in their respective fields: Nada Bahzad, Senior Program Development Officer at Qatar Reads; Dr. Sohaira Siddiqui, GU-Q Theology Professor; Btool Alsayed, Ph.D. division of sustainability at HBKU and Core Network Engineer at Vodafone; and Rawaa Auge, programs host at Al Jazeera and producer-host of Women Voices.
The conference focused on questions directed to the speakers; topics ranged from their personal experiences and journeys regarding their work, challenges they may have faced in their respective fields and their possible resolutions, and messages or advice they have for students who wish to pursue a career in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), entrepreneurship, academia, or journalism. While Anam Fatima (‘24), president of FIF, started off the event by sharing a few words about the organization and the conference itself, “The main focus of this event is to allow university students to further their knowledge and curiosities in pursuing careers in these fields of STEM, entrepreneurship, and journalism. It is expected to highlight female presence in these fields in Qatar. The conference will act as a platform for the speakers to echo their lived experiences as to what a female in the workplace in Qatar has to go through in terms of academic, professional and personal pressure. It will create an environment that allows for networking across all fields from high school to college, and to women well into their career.”
As such, the first round of questions focused on the speakers’ individual experiences and the hurdles they came across in their pursuit of various careers. When Dr. Sohaira Siddiqui was asked about her perspective on female figures in Islam, she underlines the role of contemporary education in teaching students about women in Islam, beyond the household, and primarily in political, social, and religious participation. She also states that recognition must be given to women who have spearheaded discoveries, innovating their own vocations, and working across multiple fields. In STEM, as emphasized by Ms. Batool AlSayed, while obstacles for women in engineering have become less difficult to overcome with time, she still mentions two primary challenges that plague the field. These two are constituted by the “natural challenges,” which refers to the lack of policies that support working women, especially when it comes to women who have families. And the stereotypes that exist for women in the workplace, undermining women’s capabilities and lowering expectations. However, Ms. AlSayed also mentioned that these challenges can be overcome by time and urges women to use these obstacles to further their career. And in the field of journalism, Ms. Rawaa Auge, was also asked about her personal experiences. Specifically, about her journey regarding Women Voices as a producer and a host. Ms. Auge accentuates the role of the show as a safe space for women's experiences and a place where individuals are enabled to break the existing “binary state of conversation”. As such, she considers silence amongst the general public (post-Arab Spring), primarily within women, as the main challenge; thus making it more difficult to convince women to share or talk about their personal stories.
The second round of the questions focused on their advice for students who aim to build careers of their own. Ms. Nada Bahzad, who specializes in youth empowerment and entrepreneurship, shares the importance of using passion as a driving force, leaving one’s comfort zone, and employing social entrepreneurship as a form of innovation. Similarly in academia, Dr. Siddiqui states the significance of passion, patience, and the idea that entering the field has to be a calling. And then she proceeds to underline the importance of relationships between students and instructors/professors and how they sustain us over time– impacting future decisions in academia. Regarding opportunities, Ms. AlSayed shares that these opportunities always exist, although they may not be in the way we expect them. And lastly, Ms. Auge states that there are a handful of the categories of journalism, though she states that there’s a need for more story-tellers, open minded perspectives, and positive journalism. Additionally, she invites future journalists to think outside the box and to stop looking to social media algorithms and instead to people for stories that truly matter.
The event concludes with a few final thoughts from the speakers to the GUQ and Education City community in attendance, circling on themes of understanding oneself on a daily basis and following a growth mindset rather than a fixed mindset when it comes to chasing down careers in any and all fields–– including the courses Georgetown students are currently undertaking and the challenges or obstacles that come along with them.