RIYADH: A high-profile conference aimed at boosting the presence of women in the data science sector has been staged in Saudi Arabia.
Prince Sultan University (PSU) organized and hosted on Monday the third Women in Data Science (WiDS) forum in Riyadh.
Along with strategic partner, the Saudi Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, the collaborative event between PSU and the Stanford Institute for Computational and Mathematical Engineering, also focused on highlighting the latest data science research and practices in the Middle East.
PSU is the first university in the Kingdom to put data science in the spotlight, and its rector, Dr. Ahmed Al-Yamani, pointed out the importance of the forum and its contribution to the Saudi Vision 2030 reform plan.
“The third Women in Data Science conference is in line with the worldwide satellite WiDS initiative from Stanford. WiDS resonates with the thrust of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 which is the guiding light for the country’s economic, social transformation and reforms,” he said.
Dr. Heba Khoshaim, acting vice rector of the female campus at PSU and executive supervisor of WiDS, said: “Through WiDS we exchange ideas, encourage mentorship and interdisciplinary collaboration, and connect regional researchers and practitioners to pioneer global networks.
“WiDS contributes to Vision 2030 by strengthening the female workforce and empowering female scientists. Admittedly, there will be great challenges and expectations, and through their spirit, women will meet those expectations and make remarkable contributions to society,” she added.
The event involved panel discussions, keynote speeches, and workshops, as well as poster presentations by PSU students.
Keynote speakers included Dr. Maliha Hashmi, executive director of health, wellbeing and biotech at NEOM, Dr. Samantha J. Horseman from human energy management at Saudi Aramco, and Dr. Duaa Abaoud, the Eastern Municipality’s deputy director of electronic services.
One of PSU’s primary aims in being at the forefront of higher education in the Kingdom, is to broaden the technical research horizon and stimulate technical discussion and social activities to boost engagement and collaboration for its faculty, students and the community at large.
Forum organizers stressed the important role played by women in all fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).
Dr. Tanzila Saba, WiDS ambassador to PSU and associate chair of the information systems department, said: “Gender parity in STEM is not just good for women, but for society too.
“Any society that fails to harness the energy and creativity of its women is at a huge disadvantage in the modern world, while the AI (artificial intelligence) revolution will not just be feminine — it will be powered by women.”