Days ago, the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) has announced a partnership with Care Egypt Foundation (CEF) and Microsoft to launch a ”Women Empowerment Campaign.” The initiative will contribute to social, economic, and human capital development in Egypt by equipping the upcoming and existing female workforce with future-ready skills.
As part of the ”Qodwa Tech” initiative of MCIT’s Central Department for Community Development to empower women in Egypt, the campaign will see collaboration between MCIT, CEF, and Microsoft with a focus on capacity building for women in tech. The initiative strives to encourage female entrepreneurship as well as enable them to work throughout the country’s public and private sectors, including heritage handicrafts. It is also aimed at raising awareness of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and other future technology fields among the nation’s female workforce.
Daily News Egypt interviewed Mike Yeh, Associate General Counsel, Corporate, External, and Legal Affairs (CELA), Microsoft Middle East and Africa to learn more about the campaign.
Where did the idea of the campaign originate? And can you give us on more details about the campaign?
Microsoft has recognised the importance of diversity in our workforce. Part of this is a story around the digitisation of everything. So, as everything becomes digital, I think we’re starting to recognise that we absolutely have to ensure that we’re developing services and products that are really tailored for everyone, regardless of where they are.
As technology becomes available to everyone, we want to absolutely make sure that everyone has access, that they have skills, and they can learn about it.
Digital transformation can be a great enabler of economic development, the progress called for in Egypt’s Sustainable Development Strategy.
Microsoft is committed to fostering diversity and inclusion in workplaces around the world because we believe that such workforces are better able to innovate. Our partnership with MCIT and CEF reiterates Microsoft’s efforts to empower the women of Egypt and ensure that everyone has a seat at the table.
Microsoft’s collaboration with the MCIT and CEF on the Women Empowerment Campaign builds on its ongoing strategic partnership with the Central Department for Community Development, which began in 2014. The partnership aims to support the ministry in creating a sustainable social model that contributes to addressing unemployment and economic challenges, by empowering women to achieve more.
How will this campaign empower women?
Through this campaign, we develop broader and practical skills that people will need to land a job.
It is an initiative to encourage entrepreneurship and raise awareness of AI and other future-era skills among the nation’s female workforce
Our goal is to go from training to job creation, and to help people land jobs, ideally, tech jobs.
Why did you choose Egypt specifically for that campaign?
In terms of why Egypt, I think, as we look across the Middle East, generally, there’s a huge need to really address the gender gap, especially when it comes to access to technology, and to help prepare the next generation of leaders to really work with technology, to leverage those skills, and to ultimately be able to land the jobs that we think technology will drive in the future.
Besides, Egypt has been a place where we’ve made a number of investments already, and in many ways, Egypt was an ideal place for us to really start and pilot a programme where we could have key stakeholders including CEF, and the Ministry of Youth, as we have a strong partnership with the Ministry.
How many women does the campaign target?
Our target is to train about 5,000 women.
What governorates does the campaign focus on?
The campaign is in celebration with International Women’s Day. So, it’s cohesive to all of Egypt, we cover all Egyptian governments, but we’re focusing on Upper Egypt this year. So, we are trying to increase our investments and our efforts in Upper Egypt, but we’re going to provide all of the trainings over all the governorates.
How do you evaluate women’s economic empowerment in Egypt?
I think it’s getting better. But the statistics are not great, when we look at unemployment rates, we will find that the unemployment rate for women is significantly higher than that of men in Egypt.
I think one of our challenges and opportunities, hopefully, is just to create opportunities, ideally for youth. And for us, I think the focus is really on the pipeline. So how do we help create a pipeline of young women who are interested in technology, want to pursue those jobs, and then ultimately can leverage the fact that technology has changed, such that they can access the most advanced technology and create ideal apps that are not only relevant to Egypt but potentially global.
In your opinion, what are the challenges that still face Egyptian women in terms of economic empowerment?
At a macro level, the issues aren’t that different than in many other countries. I think they’re still legacy and perhaps history that we need to be bold about confronting.
Some of this will be driven by economics, I think, even the Egyptian government recognises that in order for it to grow its GDP at the rate that it wishes, Egypt has to see women come into the workforce. And some of that will force some of that change.
But I also think at a very individual level, we have to figure out how do we be more intentional about creating opportunities even within Microsoft, we’ve started a values conversation and ideas to create space and so we can talk about some of these issues that might be uncomfortable, but ultimately, we think that being transparent and open with each other about opportunities is a good thing. Meanwhile, I see a similar opportunity at the country level, even though that’s much easier said than done.