Women in science continue to make progress and solve today’s challenges in their respective fields.

To celebrate the International Day of Women and Girls in Science on February 11, 2022, the Foundation L’Oréal and UNESCO took place at the Dubai Exhibition Center at Expo 2020 Dubai to award a total of 14 young talents for their research in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

As science continues to become an important career path for many, this esteemed event awarded women in this field to make them inspiring leaders for future generations.

During the programme, researcher Arij Yehya was a recipient of the 2021 MENA Young Talent award and Emirates Woman spoke exclusively to her to delve further into her research.

Could you elaborate on the research that you’ve conducted?

My current research is in the field of Psychology, as I am working on personality and culture. I aim to answer one of the paradoxes in the field, which is gender differences in personality traits are widening in cultures that are more developed and have better gender equality. The reason for this widening is unknown still. I aim to find out the factors that drive these changes, are biological or cultural. I have also worked and published several research papers related to cultural adaptation of questionnaires and on mental health.

What are the challenges you have faced being a woman in a male-dominated field?

In my years of work as a researcher in Psychology, I was lucky to work with many successful women around the world who have made considerable discoveries to advance the field. I was supervised, mentored and taught by them. I have also been supported well by those around me including my superiors. Thanks to that I was able to reach a stage where I am following my passion in science and working towards a goal that I believe can benefit my field of study. Women face many challenges in the workplace, and this is not only in science. These include challenges of long-working hours and work-life imbalance and mentorship. Science specifically requires mentorship and support, which is not widespread in the Arab region at the moment.

Arij Yehya

Women empowerment is of paramount importance in the UAE. How does it feel to pave the way for so many women in the region?

My message today is that it is possible to be passionate about science, work hard, achieve goals, living a regular life and have a family. I feel grateful that I get to share my story with women in this region. I hope I get to have an impact on the younger generation to pursue science, which I believe might bring us more groundbreaking discoveries in the field.

What piece of advice would you give to aspiring researchers in their respective fields?

Success in any field is a combination of passion, mentorship and opportunity. In the Middle East, also we see opportunities for success, yet they are not abundant. So, my advice for aspiring researchers would be to follow their passion and find mentors who are can support them in their path to success. Researchers should actively try to find opportunities and work hard as this is key to achieving success in science.

What are your hopes for the future of women in this country?

My hopes for the future of women are to live a lifestyle where they are able to achieve their goals and live their dreams. In our days, the main challenge of women in pursuing science is the worldwide pandemic during which many women lost their work or had to stop their education to look after their loved ones. I hope governments and institutions around the world call for action to support that affected long-term by the pandemic.

How does it feel to receive the prestigious L’Oréal UNESCO award and what more do you wish to achieve in the future?

This award is an important milestone in my scientific career. I remember the day I got the phone call that I was one of the winners of the Women In Science Young Talents Middle East 2021 Program. At that moment, I felt that the hard work of the previous years was acknowledged and I was proud and happy. Today, I am excited to share the news with the people around me as I believe I should thank them for all the support that got me to win this prestigious award. My main goal in life is to continue to add to the field of psychology, by publishing most of my research in high-impact journals and paving the way for other scientists to add to our knowledge on human behaviour.

How does it feel to be a woman paving the way in the GCC?

I feel honored to be given this role as I think L’Oreal UNESCO Programs are great initiatives in this area. More so, I feel responsible to support women in the GCC and the Middle East to the best of my abilities. It is such an important and vital role that pushes for inclusion in science.

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