Women in the United Arab Emirates are overtaking their male counterparts in science, technology and mathematics (Stem) related careers, according to research from the Economist Intelligence Unit.
The study shows that the UAE is not just about flash cars, decadent lifestyles and mesmerising skyscrapers.
The country is making serious progress in gender equality and a study from consultant Booz Allen estimates that, if the UAE follows the pattern of Greece, Ireland and Spain (where female participation in Stem careers grew by 15-20% over three decades), this could lead to an increase in productivity and consumption that would boost GDP by 12%.
In light of the research, IBTimes UK decided to profile three women working in the UAE who are helping reverse the country's gender gap and outperform men.
Name: Noora Husseini
Occupation: Process Engineer at Petrofac
The Imperial College London graduate says she was motivated to pursue engineering because of her "very strong" numerical skills.
She claims she could "do anything" that was mathematically-based at school and that strength was one of the deciding factors for her career in the Stem-related industry.
Husseini also stresses the diversity engineering brings with it. "It's not just oil and gas," she says. "You can work in pharmaceuticals, water, energy and manufacturing."
Husseini, who describes herself as Mediterranean, has worked in a myriad of countries. The UK, Greece, Oman and the UAE – her engineering career has taken Husseini around the world. But she says it was not hard to adjust to the different locations. She explains that you "develop an adaptability" once you have lived in many places. But from what she sees, the UAE seems to be a very welcoming place to foreigners and is a good location to integrate.
Husseini claims men have handled her very professionally in work. Even though she claims she is a feminist "in certain ways", Husseini says she has been treated very well in the Middle East. The engineer sees a lot of women in meetings with clients and at conferences who are also "progressing really well".
On construction projects, Husseini has often been the only woman on the team, "if not all of the time". This sector is dominated by men, the engineer explains. But on her last assignment one of her fellow co-workers was a Russian female graduate.
Husseini says the work environment is changing, though. The perception that engineering and construction jobs are exclusively for men is fading.
However, she has noticed an interesting phenomenon. She claims that a lot of women are moving into IT, rather than engineering.
She explains that as a female engineer she is unexperienced when it comes to site visits. Something she wants to resolve because "by going to a refinery and seeing everything, you learn so much faster." If I she had a year's site experience, Husseini claims she would be much better at what she does now.
But she says women are not accommodated on sites. This is because labour camps are for men only. Husseini says she cannot go to these locations because of where they are based – usually in hard to reach areas, where workers live and labour.
It is because of this limitation that more women in the UAE are going into IT related fields, according to Husseini.
Even though some sites are accessible – where a woman can commute from a town or city nearby – women are taking their skills to the burgeoning computer industry.