Exploring, activating and empowering Muslim Women in Technology. My WCMT Fellowship!
I have news! I’ve been awarded the prestigious Winston Churchill Memorial Trust fellowship! The WCMT funds British citizens to investigate inspiring practice in other countries, and return with innovative ideas for the benefit of people across the UK. So I’ve been rewarded the fellowship to travel to Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates and the USA to explore the potential for greater participation in the technology sector among Muslim women. I’d like to first of all thank all the people who helped and supported me in my application. This win is for you!
Why did I choose this topic? For anyone that knows me I’ve been working in tech for over 3 years now and imposter syndrome and the lack of role models for someone like me is very common. Muslim women will often face cultural barriers and sometimes only someone who understands your normal can really help this is changing however with programmes like Muslim Women Connect.
I alhumdilliah come from a very supportive family but I still have to navigate two cultures and I do face barriers. At the interview I was actually asked “Why I didn’t consider Malaysia as one of my countries?” I was honest and said it did cross my mind but I picked the countries I knew my parents would be comfortable with. Also as someone who hasn’t really travelled on her own before the countries I picked were the ones I felt I could navigate on my own. Am I lowering my aspirations by doing so? No. This fellowship illustrates the reality for a lot of Muslim women, we don’t lower aspirations we just sometimes have to find other ways of approaching things we want to do.
Anyway a year ago me and Murtaza got together and set up MuslamicMakers a community for muslims working in tech to create a safe space, raise aspirations and inspire people to consider a career in tech, you can read about why we did this in Murtaza’s blog post here.
In the process of putting on events we faced a problem ourselves, our events were becoming very male heavy and it was often very easy for us to find a male muslim tech entrepreneur but super difficult to find a muslim women! We tried really hard and our first Muslim Women in Tech special with Nafisa from Amaliah and Zohra from Halal gems which was so inspiring and great but something inside me just clicked. Where were the Muslim women working in tech like me?
I contribute as one of the 30% of women who work in the Tech sector and even a fewer percent of that are Muslim women. The gender imbalance for Muslim women in Tech is clear in the UK yet at the same time the Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures for 2015, found 35% of all Muslim women from 16 to 64 were in employment compared to 69% of all British working-age women were in employment between March and May this year. I feel like we can solve two problems in one go, let’s inspire more Muslim women to consider a career in tech and solve the diversity issue in the process.
Diversity is essential especially in technology and innovation as it plays a huge part in our everyday life and if the makers are not diverse then we are not creating fully inclusive products.
Inshallah I’ll be heading over to America in July for a month and Pakistan and UAE in December for another month. Shoutout to my employer Makers Academy for being very supportive in this
I want to meet as many inspiring people as I can but my focus is on muslim women in tech so if you know of anyone I should speak to then please introduce me. I now have the task of putting together a solid itinerary. I want to focus on one startup/organisation per city as I hope to make short inspiring video case studies on them and actually spend quality time and learn lots from them.
I picked America because culturally it’s the closest to the UK and Muslims there would face the most similar barriers to Muslims here. UAE as it’s very east meets west and Pakistan because it’s the country of my parents and although comes across as a very conservative country Muslim women in tech are doing very awesome stuff there and I’m so excited to see the country as a fully functioning economy and not a family hoilday!
The organisations I’ve identified are:
- San Francisco: Muppies, MpowerChange and Salam Bank.
- Washington DC: Muslim Girl, Ishqr and Affinis Lab.
- New York City: Quran Academy and Investroo.
So if you know of anyone within those organisations or I’ve missed someone amazing of the list then please comment/tweet me and let me know. The other part of my fellowship and if not the biggest part is dismantling my learning. If you run my organisations or are interested in hosting the videos or blogs I’ll write during the fellowship then also please get in touch about that too.
Shelina Janmohammed wrote an influential booked called “Generation M, Young Muslims changing the world. I am so excited to be part of that generation and to uncover the stories of other muslims. Here is to a very exciting adventure inshallah!