Six Emirati women in science
Suzanne Locke 9 February 2023
To celebrate the UN’s International Day of Women and Girls in Science on
11 February, we highlight six women at the forefront of science, technology, engineering and
mathematics (STEM) in the UAE – cybersecurity specialist Dr Hoda Alkhzaimi, HE Sarah Al
Amiri, chair of the UAE Space Agency, Salma Al Hajeri, one of the first women to graduate
from Abu Dhabi’s Petroleum Institute, Aisha Al Mansoori, the first female Emirati captain in
a commercial airline, aspiring scientist Alia Al Mansoori, and Nora Al Matrooshi, the first
Arab woman astronaut – and look at facts about STEM, a growing field for women in the Middle
Arab women in science
- Around the world, women represent only 35 percent of students studying STEM. That soars
to 61 percent in the UAE.
- In the Middle East, up to 57 percent of all STEM graduates are women, according to
- Four Arab countries – Algeria, Egypt, Kuwait, and Tunisia – have achieved gender parity
in the number of their scientific researchers, with at least 45 percent of researchers
being women (UNESCO Science Report 2021).
Gender gap in science persists
- In Saudi Arabia, 38 percent of Saudi graduates in STEM are women, but only 17
percent of these go on to work in related fields.
- In cutting-edge fields such as artificial intelligence, only one in five
professionals (22%) is a woman.
- Women are typically given smaller research grants than their male colleagues,
according to the UN.
- One in three researchers is a woman but they tend to have shorter, less well-paid
careers, the UN says. Their work is under-represented in high-profile journals and
they are often passed over for promotion.
- Only three percent of scientific Nobel Prizes have been awarded to women.
We can all do our part to unleash our world’s enormous untapped talent – starting
with filling classrooms, laboratories, and boardrooms with women scientists.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres
Dr Hoda Alkhzaimi, Director of the Center of Cyber Security in New York University Abu
Dhabi. Photo credit Aurora50
Dr Hoda Alkhzaimi
Dr Hoda Alkhzaimi is currently a research assistant professor at
New York University Abu Dhabi and the Director of the Center of Cyber Security in New York
University Abu Dhabi.
she is also the President of the Emirates Digital Association for Women and CEO of Women in
Dr Alkhzaimi obtained her PhD in Cryptanalysis from Denmark Technical
HE Sarah Al Amiri, chair of the UAE Space Agency. Photo credit WAM
HE Sarah Al Amiri
HE Sarah Al Amiri, Minister of State for Public Education and Advanced
Technology, is chair of the UAE Space Agency and the UAE Council of Scientists, and deputy
project manager of the Emirates Mars Mission.
She is also chair of the board of directors of the Emirates Schools
Her Excellency – who has given a keynote speech on innovation to
Aurora50’s The Board Summit – began her career at the Emirates Institution for Advanced
Science and Technology. She worked on DubaiSat-1 and DubaiSat-2.
She holds a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in Computer Engineering from
the American University of Sharjah.
“The future of the UAE needs to be driven by knowledge and it needs to be
fuelled by knowledge,” she says.
Mubadala’s Salma Al Hajeri, Salma Al Hajeri, one of the first women to graduate from Abu Dhabi’s Petroleum Institute. Photo credit Mubadala
Salma Al Hajeri
Salma Al Hajeri has worked with Mubadala for over a decade and is now
Vice-President of Non-operated Assets for MENA and Russia.
She was one of the first women to train at Abu Dhabi’s Petroleum
Institute and graduated with a masters in engineering, having studied for a bachelors in
electrical engineering at the UAE University in Al Ain, where she is from.
She also has an MBA from Abu Dhabi University and was the first woman
reservoir engineer in ADCO, part of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC).
“One of the things that makes me most proud is the example my story gives
young girls and women who are now embarking on their own journey as engineers and
scientists,” she says.
Aisha Al Mansoori, the first female Emirati captain in a commercial airline (Etihad).
Photo credit Etihad
Aisha Al Mansoori
Last year Aisha Al Mansoori became the UAE’s first female Emirati captain
in a commercial airline.
She has flown with Etihad Airways since joining as a cadet in 2007 and
received her four stripes denoting her new rank as a captain at 33, on Emirati Women’s Day
“The opportunities are growing and growing, especially in the region. The
sky is the limit, really,” she says.
Ms Al Mansoori’s sister is Major Mariam Al-Mansouri, the UAE’s first
female fighter pilot.
Alia Al Mansoori, aspiring Emirati scientist. Photo credit Alia Al Mansouri, Facebook
Alia Al Mansoori
Alia Al Mansoori is an aspiring scientist who turns 21 this year.
She is the youngest person ever to be appointed scientific research
fellow at New York University Abu Dhabi.
She also set up Emirati Astronaut, a platform to encourage dialogue
between aspiring astronauts and veterans of space flight.
She is studying at the University of Edinburgh.
Nora Al Matrooshi, the first Arab woman astronaut. Photo credit WAM
Nora Al Matrooshi
In 2021 Nora Al Matrooshi became the first female Emirati and Arab
astronaut; only 65 women worldwide have been to space.
Chosen from over 4,000 candidates to be trained for future space
exploration missions, Ms Al Matrooshi is spending two years with NASA in the US.
She is learning how to operate and maintain the International Space
Station, training for space walks, robotic skills, T-38 training jet operations and Russian
She studied mechanical engineering at the United Arab Emirates
University, and aspires to land on the Moon aboard an Emirati spacecraft.