From the oldest university in the world being founded by a Muslim woman, Fatima Al-Fihri in 9th Century Fes, to Queen Amina of Zaria, who in 16th century Subsaharan Africa built the Zaria wall, and was famous for her military strategy and engineering skills, Muslim women throughout history have made significant contributions to education and science and technology fields. It is an important part of our heritage, which needs to continue today
In the UK, in 2016 the percentage of women in engineering professional occupations was a shocking 8% and across the core STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) workforce,women only accounted for 21% of employees. If we compare this to other countries, such as Iran for example, where 70% of science and engineering students are women, we can see that there is a huge problem in general in the UK of representation of women in the STEM sector. However, this is beginning to change and Muslim women are part of the process.
Having studied engineering, many of my friends went on to work for a wide variety of companies. From Rolls Royce, to Jaguar Land Rover, Thames Water, Costain and MAN Truck & Bus to name but a few. They are Muslim women, working on real and exciting projects that have a direct impact on society. During my PhD, I met Muslim women from all over the world, conducting cutting edge research in fields such as biotechnology, corrosion, lasers, building structures and nuclear fusion. Some were young, some were married and with children. All of them were brilliant minds, who were working hard, carrying out painstaking experiments that required them to be in labs at all times of the day, or producing and running advanced simulations. Muslim women today are continuing in the footsteps of their predecessors, making their mark in the world of STEM.
As a Muslim woman in technology, I am sharing my voice. Beyond technology, we must highlight and support Muslim women leading the way in all disciplines. Muslim women like Firdows Kedir and Khadija Saye. Leading the way in public speaking, a traditionally elite skill, Firdows at 12 years old won the final of a country wide debating competition, judged by Bill Gates and Jon Snow. Khadija’s artwork was being exhibited at Venice Biennale and she had been invited to show her work at other galleries. Tragically both these incredible Muslim women lost their lives in the Grenfell fire tragedy. They have opened doors and pushed boundaries for Muslim women all over the country, for which we must be eternally thankful. May we never forget them. May we take up the mantle and do justice to the heritage left for us by the incredible Muslim women that have come before us.
Dr. Aneeqa Khan is a British Muslim, living in France, working in nuclear fusion. She wants to encourage more Muslim women to pursue careers in STEM.