The international image of women in Iraq isn’t very er, positive. There are currently no women cabinet ministers and a recent study by National Geographic rated Iraq as the 6th worst place in the world to be a woman. In addition, women do not make a huge percentage of the workforce (so women in tech are even fewer) and access to education is limited.
However, technology is and will continue to change this. The internet is providing different levels of opportunity that were not previously available. Flexible working and remote education give women all over the world the ability to learn new skills and gain an income remotely. Along with providing scalable solutions to reach people in all areas.
Below are just a few of the most influential women in tech from the north to the south of Iraq. As they break through stereotypes and create a movement in their respective cities, we are here and living for it!
“I had it all set at the age of 25. I was a board member at one of the biggest companies in the country, Baghdad Soft Drinks, and a financial analyst at the largest foreign investment fund in Iraq. Yet, there was something missing!”
Equipped with a Bachelor in Business Administration and an MSc in Finance, Safa was already conquering the finance and investment sector in Iraq. But one event changed that.
“I was exposed to the world of entrepreneurs in 2015 through a UNDP project. I was shocked by the obstacles that entrepreneurs are facing. Here, I realised the leverage I have to help entrepreneurs.”
Safa’s background in business, finance, and economics meant that she could support entrepreneurs by linking them to big companies and investors. Through this realisation, she wanted to further equip herself to support entrepreneurs by pursuing an MSc in Emerging Economies and International Development at King’s College London. “I started focusing on developing training material for entrepreneurs, spending my time researching entrepreneurship, and training entrepreneurs to better manage their businesses. My focus was on training women entrepreneurs and sharing my business knowledge. I would express my confidence in them and in their ability to change the lives of their families and children. “
Recently, Safa has joined the Office of the President of Iraq where one of her goals is to start an Entrepreneurship Intuitive by the Presidency. The aim is to tackle the challenges entrepreneurs face in an institutionalised manner. She believes that existing players in the market have a huge competitive advantage where they can teach entrepreneurs and vice versa.
Born and raised in Baghdad, Sarah started her career as a self-taught designer whilst studying computer science at university.
In 2014, Sarah and her friends realised they shared the same unwavering ambition to provide high-quality digital services in Iraq. This gave birth to d3 Studio, a digital services agency providing novel products for the Iraqi market.
Sarah’s vision for Iraq includes the production of high-quality digital products, creating purposeful and engaging projects, establishing an Iraqi animation industry, and giving inspiration and support to other artists and designers.
“One issue is the lack of diversity in the tech market. It makes me feel responsible for involving more women into the field as they are conspicuously underrepresented. So I volunteered in Women Techmakers and Google Developers Group to empower and engage more women by designing activities that suit the local society.”
She also founded the Haraka initiative to upskill digital artists and connect them with worldwide industry professionals. By organising engaging activities, “they can share knowledge and expertise with our local artists and designers“.
Hala is an architect and designer with a Master’s degree in communication management from Malaysia.
She is the Financial and Administrative Assistant at Science Camp (the Iraqi Maker Space), which aims to spread the culture of entrepreneurship and technological incubation in Basrah. Hala is the leading female team member in the Science Camp: “Through my achievements, I believe that I am taking the responsibility of all women’s success rather than it being my own personal success.”
“At Science Camp, our goal is to improve Basrah’s immature job market by creating diversity and involving more women to enter the workforce.” Hala is working on projects that coach local women entrepreneurs through tailoring entrepreneurship standards for an Iraqi environment. She is an innovation-advocate, community builder, and entrepreneurship enthusiast.
Previously the Business Development Manager for Careem Iraq, Safa is pursuing her MBA in the US with a Fulbright scholarship.
Safa has been heavily involved in grassroots movements to grow Iraq’s ecosystem, especially in Baghdad where 25% of the country’s population lives. She is the lead organiser for Google Developer Group Baghdad and Women Techmakers, and Vice President of the Arab Women In Computing committee. Safa is also one of the stakeholders in implementing Iraq’s five year plan in Women’s Economic Empowerment, spearheaded by the World Bank.
Prior to embarking on her Fulbright scholarship, Safa was awarded an executive education scholarship by the American University of Sharjah in their Iraq Public Leadership Program. The final presentation of their policy papers will be in early 2020 in front of Iraqi government officials to discuss the development of government policies in vital sectors.
She earned her mini-MBA from Harvard Business School, as well as a Bachelor degree in Communications Engineering from the University of Diyala. She has also earned the titles of Cisco Champion and Spark Ambassador from Cisco Systems, including the Cisco Certified Network Professional credentials.
Hero is a Senior Software Developer at Market Wings, a digital marketing startup based in Sulaimaniya. After completing her degree in IT at the American University of Iraq, Hero founded Hackasuly. Through this, she organised the first hackathon in Sulaimaniya.
Her goal is to grow the tech community in Sulaimaniya, where she has organised multiple events including the Suli Tech Festival and Meet & Code.
Hero recently organised one of the largest hackathons in Sulaimani – Hackasuly 2019, to further develop the community and promote technology in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.
Hala is Re:Coded’s Kids Coding Trainer in Erbil. Her goal is to train the next generation of tech leaders through hardware and software events, workshops, and bootcamps.
She was born and raised in Sydney, Australia before moving to Erbil in 2012 and is currently pursuing a degree in Civil Engineering. Her studies and work give her the chance to fuse her love for design, technology, and engineering. Hala is passionate about providing opportunities for young people to see technology as a medium for self-expression and as a means to change the world.
“I believe that change starts small. Equipping children with the right soft and technical skills will help them better prepare for a digital future and become leaders, change makers, innovators, and inventors in their own communities.”
Noor is an artist and designer with a Bachelor degree in Political Science. However, her passion has always been in artisanal and handmade products. Three years ago she launched Hili, a brand selling handmade items from local artisans inspired by Iraqi heritage.
Noor also works with Prosperity Catalyst as there Product Development and Marketing Manager. “I work with vulnerable women in Baghdad, Erbil, and Dohuk to enhance their vocational skills. I also work with our staff to improve existing women-led businesses to produce better quality products. This leads to increased sales and therefore, hiring more women.”
Najaf’s Power Women #hijabisintech
Aside from organising Google Developer Group and being Women Techmakers Ambassadors in Najaf, this group of friends are creating a developer community and targeting women’s inclusivity in tech, together. It takes a village.
Zahraa holds a BSc in Mathematics focusing on the use of statistical programming in the analysis of Big Data. She currently works at Green Code as a front-end web developer, and as a content writer at Qamar Center for Digital Media. Her interests include programming, technology, and books related to human and societal development.
Specialised in web and desktop-based applications, Athraa works as a freelance web developer and graphic designer at an Iraqi training centre.
Athraa holds a BSc degree in Computer Science from the University of Kufa specialised in programming implementations using the Arduino micro-controller.
During her BSc and MSc in Computer Science, Nuha’s focus has been in Computer vision and Human-Computer Interaction. Nuha is a software developer specialised in backend development and building web databases. She is also a co-founder of Green Code and works as a promoting manager in Alqamer Center for Digital Media. “I believe programming can make all aspects of life smoother and easier.”
Utilising her backend web development skills, Zahraa co-founded a software development startup, Green Code. Her interests lie in expanding her programming skills and learning new languages and designs so that she can automate all aspects of her work. Equipped with a BSc and MSc in Computer Science, Zahraa specialised in image recognition and processing. “I am very passionate about sharing my learnings with other developers.”
Hawra is an active community organiser, where she volunteers the majority of her time organising, attending, and speaking at technical conferences around the world. A former high-school teacher, she is now the Lead Organiser for Google Developer Group Oxford and a STEM UK ambassador. Hawra teaches in Code Clubs and CoderDojos across London and is an Apple, Google, and Raspberry Pi Certified Educator.
She holds a BSc in Computer Science, a PGCE in Computer Science, and an MA in Computer Science Education from King’s College London. She is currently undertaking her PhD in cybersecurity at UCL (University College London), focusing on the use of Natural Language Processing and Machine Learning to detect cyberbullying in schools.
“I am super passionate about making a difference in the Iraqi community. I especially want to alter community attitudes towards the acceptance of women’s participation in the tech scene.”