Blog: Muslim women in tech

Published: 28 Nov 2018

Author: Arfah Farooq
Blog: Muslim women in tech

I work in the tech industry and frequently find that I’m the only Muslim woman in the rooms I walk into. I’ve never had anyone like myself to really look up to, someone whose culture is the same as mine and whose career journey I could compare with my own.

It’s these experiences that led to my Churchill Fellowship last year. I travelled to the USA, Pakistan and the UAE to seek out Muslim women working in tech, and to use their stories to inspire others.

In the USA, I visited tech giants like Twitter, Facebook, Asana and Survey Monkey, but just as exciting to me was finding a mosque in Lanham, Maryland, where kids were being taught html coding skills. It was really eye-opening to see such a grassroots, alternative model of upskilling.

Below: Arfah, far right, with young Muslim women learning coding at a mosque

Coding class at a mosque

In Pakistan and the UAE, I saw examples of their governments and businesses empowering women to work in the tech industry. For example, in Pakistan I spent time with Herself, a government-funded initiative which delivers training programmes for women to learn graphic design and social media skills. I also visited a software house where, recognising that travel can be a barrier for women, they provide free cab rides to and from work as a perk of the job.

Since returning to the UK, I’ve got a new job as a Creative Business Strategist. Diversity is one of the issues I advise on, so a lot of the knowledge I’ve gained from my Fellowship is useful.

I’ve also had some great speaking opportunities, including at Google, schools and conferences. I’ve done a lot of public speaking in the past, but the Fellowship has added another layer to my story. People are really keen to hear about the expertise and knowledge I’ve accumulated not just from the UK, but from three other countries.

I’ve also launched a website called Inclusive Tech World, where I’ve collected stories from my travels. It’s so important to champion unrepresented role models, because they are often the catalysts of change and can help people realise what’s possible. Meeting so many inspirational women on my Fellowship lifted my own aspirations – and I hope it can do the same for others.

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A version of this article was first published in our 2018 newsletter. Read it here