There has been much focus on female representation (or lack thereof) in Silicon Valley recently. Recent harassment cases has brought into focus an industry that is overwhelmingly male and not always an easy work environment for women. In contrast, across the ocean, in the Middle East, women in tech are rising quickly through the ranks. I’d like to highlight a few of the female entrepreneurs who have found success in the region, who are continuing to spearhead innovative projects.
One of these entrepreneurs is 30-year-old predictive analyst Kira Radinsky. Radinsky moved to Israel from Russia when she was four. After serving her mandatory army service as a teenager, where she worked in the intelligence department, Radinsky turned her attention and career to data collection and analyzation. She was soon hired at Microsoft where she found her niche focusing on disease and regional rioting. Radisnky studied patterns in human behavior, soon finding that understanding certain patterns proved conducive to predicting humanitarian, social, and economic crises.
She eventually left Microsoft to begin her own start up, SalesPredict. Initially conceived to anticipate what consumers would buy online based on past purchases, Radinsky has emphasized the importance of this type of data analyzation on a larger scale. “If a structure repeats itself a few times, there’s a probability that the sequence of events will repeat itself again.” Radinsky explained to Israeli publication The Marker. “If we identify a chain of events at an early stage of the sequence, we can predict – based on the past – how it will end and, if necessary, act to change the future.”
For one particularly persuasive argument of the technology’s ability, look to SalesPredict’s accurate foreseeing of riots in Sudan during the Arab Spring. After the country eliminated gas subsidies, the system registered a high chance of student protests – which turned out to be accurate, with the protests quickly turning violent and spreading nationwide. While there is the potential of this information being used by governments to crack down on protests, these types of predictions could also be monumentally advantageous to humanitarian organizations, and with Radinsky at the helm, that potential for NGOs is unlikely to be overlooked.
Dubai-based entrepreneur Dr. Aisha bin Bishr is another innovator who has proven the irreplaceability of women in the tech world in the Middle East. “This is a time of unprecedented opportunity in technology advancement,” Bishr’s colleague Zeina El Kaissi told Quartz earlier this year. “And women leaders such as Dr. Aisha Bin Bishr are pushing the boundaries of what is possible and positioning Dubai as an inclusive and thriving technology hub for the world.”
Dr. Bishr leads Smart Dubai, a company working to implement several initiatives aimed at improving the quality of life in the UAE through economic, environmental, and social programs. Smart Dubai measures success of the program based on individual happiness, even going so far as implementing a “happiness meter” across both government and private sector entities, based on feedback from visitors and residents. Other initiatives involve introducing new smart services to improve infrastructure and creating a city-wide digital data platform to streamline governmental services.
In Lebanon, the country has been actively expanding their tech industry over the past decade. “The startup scene in Lebanon is moving faster than Paris,” says Lebanese biochemist Eve Tamraz. “You can feel this this drive they have to make things happen.” Likely due to the popularity among Lebanese youth who study abroad in tech-forward cities like London and Paris, many women in the country have tapped into the startup scene from an early age.
This global education is what pushed Tamraz to co-found the company White Lab, the creative force behind Sensio Air, an in-home pattened allergen tracker. The system is comprised of a small device which tracks allergy-inducing particles in the air, and an app which informs users of the level of these particles, as well as solutions to improve in home air quality. Sensio Air won first prize at Harvard Arab weekend in 2015, and Tamraz has been personally honored by MIT as a top innovator under the age of 35.
The list of women redefining their roles in business in the Middle East goes on, particularly in the technology sector. It will be exciting to watch these women continue to work towards ground-breaking solutions on existing social and economic issues.