Why Sana Odeh, professor of Computer Science (CS) at NYU, was determined to launch Women in Computing in the Arab World as a conference and community.

“I wanted to do something with Arab women in computing because in the US everyone is obsessed with these small numbers of women in the field. The ex-president of Harvard created a huge debate by saying women are biologically less fit at it. But in the Arab World, the majority of CS students are women.

So this is not an international pattern, it depends on cultural factors. In the Arab world technology is viewed as something creative and empowering, while in the US it’s viewed as geeky, and women get the cue that they’re not good at it–even though girls often outperform boys.

Female students in CS definitely have an advantage in the Arab World because there they are the majority so they don’t feel left out, they support one another, and parents push their kids into it. Of course, in industry and in academia, few women work in IT, and as in many workplaces, they tend to face discrimination.

But in the entrepreneurial world, the venture capitalists are saying women tend to stick to their companies and manage them well, so they’re funding women. There’s an eco-system that supports women in the Arab World because it’s young, trendy and innovative, and women are embracing it. In Jordan, 30% of entrepreneurs are women, while in the US, only 10% are.

In 2012 I did the first conference. I wanted the young, energetic, accomplished, and I found 45 amazing women. So it was a great success, and to my surprise many of these women in the same country and university don’t talk to one another.

Now we’re hoping to publish a book, and to develop mentoring, internship and scholarship programs to support these women to achieve their career goals–so this is just the beginning.”

For more info – AWIC website

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Jennifer MacKenzie

Poet, writer and teacher Jennifer MacKenzie grew up on Bloomcrest Dr. in Bloomfield Hills, MI, which inspired her to wonder about places with patterns other than floral. Following her education at Wesleyan University's College of Letters and the University of Iowa's Writers Workshop, she followed a zig-zag course that included a pilgrimage across the top of Spain and a long sojourn in Syria in pursuit of the language of Muhammad al-Maghout and Moudthaffar al-Nawwab. While in Damascus she completed the books of poems "Distant City" and "My Not-My Soldier" (forthcoming from Fence Books) and edited the magazine Syria Today. Her poems and essays can be found in numerous journals including the Kenyon Review online, Guernica, Quarterly West, and Lungfull. She currently lives in New York.

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