Early in her career, Samira Negm, a Cairo-based engineer, programmed self-parking features for cars. But she spent nearly as much time driving a car as she spent programming one. Millions of people moved from home to work every day in her city of more than 20 million; her daily commute to work could at times run to three hours or more.
She started wondering if she couldn’t do more useful things with her skills — and her time. Perhaps she could connect co-workers looking for efficient ways to travel to work in Cairo’s chaotic traffic. Perhaps she could even design a car-pooling app, to provide workers, particularly women, with safer and cheaper ways to travel while helping cut down traffic congestion. Ms. Negm quit her job and Raye7, a car-pooling app, was born.
Ms. Negm is the new face of tech entrepreneurship in the Muslim world. And she is not alone.
The number of women at work across the Muslim world is swelling. Across the 30 largest emerging-market Muslim countries, 100 million women were working in 2002. Today, that number is 155 million. Economic necessity, more education, new technologies and changing social norms have been at the core of this shift. And among these new entrants to the labor force, women like Ms. Negm — a new generation of educated, female, dynamic, tech-savvy, globally connected but locally committed entrepreneurs — hold the most promise for delivering an outsize impact on their countries’ prosperity.
Across most countries of the world, women make up a much smaller proportion than men of those skilled in coding and the sciences. In fact there are only five countries where among students enrolled in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM programs, women outnumber men. Two of those, Brunei and Kuwait, are Muslim-majority economies. Across 18 countries, women make up 40 percent or more of STEM students. More than half of the countries have Muslim majorities. (In the United States, women make up just 30 percent of STEM students.)
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Muslim World Today.