The Jordan Times
by Laila Azzeh
AMMAN – Although their numbers are on the rise, exceeding 50 per cent in some public agencies, women engineers in Jordan still have difficulty advancing in their profession at a pace with their male colleagues.
At the opening of the first National Forum for Jordanian Women Engineers, participants highlighted that women themselves are sometimes to blame for the hardships they face within the profession.
"Some women avoid getting dirt on their hands, while others don’t stand up for their rights… in the end it’s up to them [women] to prove that women can be as dedicated as their male peers," Nabila Haddadin, a retired military engineer, told The Jordan Times.
The electrical engineer, who started her own business six years ago, highlighted that many clients "don’t trust women to handle jobs that involve fieldwork".
Haddadin said she was the first to push the Jordan Engineers Association (JEA) to grant women members the same benefits as their male counterparts.
"I fought for six years to grant women engineers pieces of land after the association decided only to give them to married male members. They had to change their legislation to be able to do so," she remarked.
Suhair Nimri, another engineer working in the public sector, noted that the main problem facing women engineers is "difficulty in reaching decision-making positions, even in the association".
Held under the patronage of HRH Princess Basma, the forum, titled "The future through the eyes of women engineers", provided a platform for participants to shed light on laws governing women’s work, paving the way for enacting a national strategy for improving the status of women engineers in Jordan.
The 2012-2016 strategy, to be endorsed later this year, stipulates increasing their participation in the decision-making process, improving their skills in all engineering specialisations and ensuring equality in wages.
In a speech delivered by Jordanian National Commission for Women (JNCW) Secretary General Asma Khader on her behalf, Princess Basma said female members of syndicates are a model of qualified and intellectual women who are capable of contributing to the development of the country.
She highlighted that in order for women to actively engage in fostering the advancement of the country, they must be provided with the appropriate atmosphere so that they can strike a balance between their responsibilities at work and in the home.
"Achieving this balance is not only a matter of revisiting legislation to realise equality between men and women, but extends to the ability of these laws to protect women’s rights on the ground and meet their needs at all times," the Princess pointed out in her speech.
To this end, the JNCW has established a network for female academicians and professionals to help coordinate among women in professional associations and understand their needs, she added.
Minister of Public Works and Housing Yahya Kisbi, who attended the forum on behalf of the Princess, noted that the number of women engineers working at the ministry now exceeds 50 per cent, stressing the government’s commitment to empowering women economically with the help of civil society organisations.
With women constituting 20 per cent of the JEA’s 94,000 members, the association has encouraged female members to form their own committee to manage their affairs, according to JEA President Abdullah Obeidat.
"The number of women engineers has doubled during the past 10 years. Establishing a committee for female members was not a move against them. On the contrary, it was a step forward to improve their status," he said, praising the women engineers for proving themselves in a domain "typically perceived as male-dominated".
Fadwa Abu Ghaida, president of the Committee of Arab Women Engineers, underlined that women working in the sector face discrimination in both pay and training opportunities.
"Ignorance of their rights usually makes women in the sector more prone to discrimination," she told The Jordan Times.