Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs
Kuwait City, Kuwait
February 6, 2007
Conference of Women Leaders in Science, Technology, and Engineering
Women leaders from the Middle East and North Africa gathered in Kuwait January 8-10, 2007, to attend the "Conference of Women Leaders in Science, Technology, and Engineering." The conference brought U.S. leaders from industry, academia, research institutions, and government for the purposes of interacting with women establishing new professional mentoring relationships. More than 270 women participated representing 20 countries.
The conference was co-hosted by the Department of State and the American Association for the Advancement of Science with the Kuwaiti Government, the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research (KISR), and the Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Science (KFAS).
Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky and Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans, Environment and Science Claudia A. McMurray led a 31-member U.S. delegation which included university presidents, leading scientists, science administrators, and entrepreneurs. (For more background and a list of U.S. participants, please see Media Note: ttp://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2007/78465.htm)
Important Role for Women and Science in the Region
In her remarks, Under Secretary Dobriansky set out the goals of the conference including: promoting the rights and advancement of women; empowering scientists and innovation; and narrowing the global gender gap in scientific output.
"Women's issues" she said "are important to us all, woman or man, regardless of religion or nationality. [They] are fundamental building blocks of responsible, accountable government, prosperity, and stability. No society can realize its potential when half its population lacks a strong voice, and--crucially--no country can fully compete in today's competitive, globalized economy when half of its human capital is marginalized or limited." She also expressed support for Kuwait's positive efforts in support of women's issues and democratic reform. Assistant Secretary McMurray focused her remarks on potential next steps for science partnerships, networking among the women attendees, and underscored U.S. enthusiasm for science and technology cooperation in the region.
Regional Participants Inspired To Work on "Next Steps"
The participants, including young researchers and students, have returned to their countries inspired and more fully conscious of the role they can play as leaders. Conference workshops on professional development, grant writing, publishing, and development of a research program helped equip the women with tools and ideas they all said they had not had access to elsewhere.
During the closing session, sentiments about the conference were best summed up by one participant dressed in the traditional black abaya that covered her face who stood up to say:
"On behalf of all women…and my sisters in science here at this conference, I thank the conference organizers … We have a great opportunity now to go back to our countries to help women take their rightful place in society."
Another participant said she never expected to attend a 3-day conference and return home a changed person. The conference participants and organizers will continue to gather ideas for next steps, and all expressed a deep interest in further meetings about advancing regional scientific networks.