As a part of our #womeninSTEM campaign, ASREN and AC3 met Dina Barakat, Vice Director of the Egyptian Universities Network (EUN), a member of the Arab States Research and Education Network (ASREN).
Dina graduated from the Department of Communication Engineering – Cairo University in 1993, and has been working at EUN for over than 27 years. We hope that her story will inspire the current and next generations of women and girls who are interested in science.
What drew you to Communication Engineering? Can you recall any times when you questioned your involvement in STEM because of your gender?
I was generally interested in the development taking place in the world of technology, especially the science of communication, and the beginning of the enormous role that constituted computer use at that time. At times, I felt that studying engineering in general and this field in particular was to some extend difficult. But I didn’t see that this difficulty had any relation with being a girl. The study of engineering is a difficult science in general, whether the student is female or male.
In the Arab world, STEM fields (especially engineering) are stereotyped as male dominated fields, where girls face cultural discouragement from going to engineering schools, and are expected to stay home and take care of kids and family. Do you see a lot of gender stereotyping in Egypt? What do you think can be done to change this stereotype?
The truth is that I do not see that in Egypt. I enrolled in college in 1988, which is more than 30 years ago, and I haven’t encountered this problem at that time. In general, I think that perhaps the field itself is to some extend difficult, but it is not stereotyped as male dominated fields.
For many women in engineering, balancing a demanding career with a family is difficult and often results in a woman leaving the profession. As a highly accomplished working mother, what are your key tips on how to balance a successful career while maintaining a healthy family life?
I believe that the work of women in the absolute, whatever the field and specialty of the work, helps to form a family and contributes effectively to the success of this system. The working mother appreciates the value of time and makes the best use of it, and this is directly reflected in her family and children. Everything is prepared and well organized to maintain a required achievement, including a healthy family life. I do not see at all a link between a woman’s work and the failure of her family life. A successful woman in her work cannot allow failure to seep into her family life.
In general, women have to define their priorities for choosing a job with flexible hours from another that may require long working hours, depending on their family circumstances, the age of their children, and the different responsibilities assigned to them according to the age of their children. She always has to balance between her responsibilities.
Finally, what advice would you give to women who are questioning their STEM related studies/ career?
Determination, good time management, and optimization of all available capabilities are the keys to success in any field, including the formation of a successful family.