Next month, the electrical engineering program at Qatar University, in Doha, will open its doors to women.
Qatar is a peninsular country like Denmark but with one-quarter of the territory and a fifth of the population. Even so, it has a huge demand for engineers. Indeed, the entire Qatar economy is as hot as its Arabian sands, with a gross domestic product that’s expected to grow 14 percent this year, to US $73 billion. To fuel yet more economic development and cultivate a culture of innovation, the government annually allocates an astonishing 2.8 percent of that GDP to technology R&D, ahead of the United States and just behind South Korea. It hopes as well to reduce dependence on foreign technology workers, and that’s where Qatar University comes in.
”There is a great focus on education here that is unique in this part of the world,” says Adnan Abu-Dayya, chairman of the university’s electrical engineering department. ”We want to make sure there are opportunities for local residents.”
The plan calls for doubling the size of the EE class to allow for some 25 to 30 women, a 50:50 student ratio, which is higher than that of any Western country.
”There’s a closer ratio of men to women engineers here than in the United States or Canada,” says Abu-Dayya.
For employers, the influx of local female engineers to the workforce plugs a brain drain left by men who head to Europe and America for their education and never return. Abu-Dayya worked at AT&T Wireless in Seattle after earning a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Queens University in Kingston, Ont., Canada.