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Given the critical role of Science, Technology, and Innovation (STI) in driving economic growth and developing sustainable knowledge economies, there has been an increase in efforts towards policy-making and sharing best practices, which creates ample opportunities for advancing the participation of women as decision-makers in key sectors of society.

In many Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) countries, women's access to education and resources is essentially on a par with that of men. However, while women's enrollment in STEM fields is high in general, there exists a palpable underrepresentation of women in the workforce. This is especially evident in private sector enterprises and leadership positions. It is worth noting that current trends show an increasing involvement of women leaders in GCC countries, which although, does not parallel the exceptionally high number of women with degrees in the STEM sciences, it is nonetheless a positive sign of change.

Indeed, if the power of STI to grow the economy and spur development is to be fully realized, the global community must work together to actively advocate for and include women and underrepresented groups in enabling policies, programs and opportunities.

In January 2007, the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research (KISR), the Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences (KFAS), the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and the U.S. Department of State (DOS) convened an International Conference for Women Leaders in Science, Technology and Engineering. The conference brought together more than 200 women from 18 Arab states and the United States to showcase accomplishments and explore challenges confronting women in science, technology, and engineering. In the last decade, the need to increase the participation and leadership of women in STI fields and sectors has gained momentum.

On the global level, the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which set aspirational goals and related targets for key global challenges of the 21st Century, recognizes that gender equality and women's empowerment are intrinsic to the security of our common future.

In celebration of the achievements of women in STI over the last 10 years and with an eye toward the challenges that must be overcome now; we are reconvening Women Leaders in Science, Technology, and Engineering in Kuwait to renew our commitment to STI and to demonstrate that Science Empowers Women in the MENA region.

JANUARY 2007 Women Conference Website. KUWAIT