Pioneer Role Models and Influential International Women in STEM
Dr Amira Elnokaly, from the Lincoln School of Architecture and the Built Environment, reflects on her career journey and the challenges she has faced as a woman in STEM. Interviewed for International Women's Day as a Pioneer Role Model and an Influential Woman in Science, Amira shares her thoughts and hopes for a future that is more inclusive, safe and sustainable
"To mark International Women's Day, I was kindly invited to a Live Radio interview, as one of 'Pioneer Role Model and Influential International Women in STEM'. I was humbled and touched by their description and how they introduced me. It is a live radio interview and the program is mainly concerned with matters of Higher Education and Scientific Research, which is broadcasted in the Middle East, GCC, and North Africa, titled 'We will Construct it together' (translated from Arabic). It lasted around 1 hour 25 minutes.
The interviewer wanted me to discuss my journey and the challenges I have faced, being a woman in STEM who started her career at a young age; travelling abroad to pursue a PhD in the UK and the difficulties I faced at the time. We discussed my time studying at the University of Nottingham as well as the teaching I did in the Design studio there, and as a part-time in practice at the Marsh Grochowski Architects. We covered the obstacles I faced doing this alongside starting a family, and how I was persistent and keen to continue doing what I love and am passionate about, whilst focusing on my personal and career growth, regardless of my personal life.
When asked about what I hope to see in the World and in Egypt more specifically, I responded: This international women's day, the motto is 'break the bias'. It resonates deeply with the Global essential efforts to mainstream women and girls' equality in all aspects of urban planning governance and city life in general because it's now only to clear that gender bias in our built environment gives rise to gendered social and economic inequities that feed directly into the systemic oppression of women and girls, that have a negative impact on our communities and development of cities, and rooting out those biases and building inclusive communities that work for everyone is going to take nothing less than an actual paradigm shift. A shift that challenges long-held assumptions; a shift that's going to bring the voices in perspective of some women and girls forward in areas where they've been discounted and ignored for far too long.
There is a fundamental need to both elevate and incorporate the voices of women and girls and sexual and gender minorities in participatory planning and design processes and it's not simply a built environment that needs our professional insights. COVID-19 has exposed so many of these so-called women's issues like child care that are in fact fundamental to the health of our economies, women simply have to be at the governance table in greater numbers in this moment of ongoing recovery from COVID-19. I think there's an opportunity to capitalize on an unprecedented and ongoing re-evaluation of where and how we live; why place matters and what constitutes stronger and more resilient communities.
Together we need to think boldly about a future that is more inclusive safe and sustainable; it's always worth reminding ourselves that the next generation of our country and world is going to depend on your continued dedication and insights.
I spoke about my projects geared towards driving the agenda of sustainable development in the region and Egypt in particular where I have worked in Alexandria, Aswan, Nuweiba, Cairo and currently have a recent successful funded project by the British Council – Going Global Partnerships in Luxor looking at digitally documenting the tangible and intangible heritage of the old heritage town of Luxor whilst facilitating knowledge growth & research capability in Egypt around the use of Digital Technology in preserving, protecting & sustaining the tangible and intangible heritage of Luxor, both through digital-documentation (digital-map) of the layered history of heritage buildings/ sites & Developing a business model for Reuse & Regeneration of Layered Cultural heritage assets identifying opportunities & future profile for the city and its development. I have also highlighted that in all my projects I link my work to the UNSDGs and the Egypt SD2030, and Societal Impact and Societal Outcomes.
To break the gender bias, I tried to ask to raise a campaign of cultural transformation using "creative industry" visual influencers - through this media platform, an initiative that is geared towards Schools (Primary and Secondary) in villages and communities, that can be named "she is my role model" هي قدوتي - قدوتي" to change the perception of the communities where girls and women are still asked to not continue their education or stop working to look after their home and children. The idea is they hang up creative arts and photos of leading women like pilots – engineers - leaders - ministers - researchers – astronauts, to raise awareness of those young girls that they are capable of achieving their dreams.
Through awareness, visual reminders and role models - when they will be told, it is not possible for a girl to do this or that; or this job is only for men and you are best suited for your home and your children, they can say I dream of being a pilot; an engineer or an astronaut. They will know if other ladies from their own country were able to make it, they will be able to do it too.
She asked towards the end about failure, I responded that sometimes one believes at a young age (at the start of their professional career) that certain things/matters in life that they couldn't achieve is the biggest failure but after some years and reflection that turns up to be their best blessing, and it happened to me. I also told her, that it depends how you look at it, one needs to learn from their failure, and this will only happen if you 'stop' and 'reflect' and 'learn' from what happened, so you progress and move forward and it doesn't happen again, then it doesn't become a 'failure' because you have learnt. So, in fact you can turn any failure into small steps towards 'Success'."
Lincoln School of Architecture and the Built Environment