17 February 2019

Women and Girls in Science Podcast Series: Architect Abeer Seikaly

According to the 2016 Global Gender Gap Report from the World Economic Forum, 16 per cent of women globally, compared to 37 per cent of men, graduate with a degree in a STEM field of study (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).  This exclusion of women and girls has important implications not only for scientific research, innovation and development, but also for women’s economic participation and inclusion.  A 2017 report estimates that 85 per cent of jobs that will exist in 2030 haven’t even been invented yet, many jobs that exist today will be lost to automation and most jobs of the future will require some facility in STEM-related subjects. If women are to be included in the employment and economic future of tomorrow, they must be included in STEM fields today. 

To promote the empowerment of women and girls in STEM and raise awareness about the need for gender inclusion in science and technology, in 2015 the United Nations General Assembly declared 11 February as the International Day of Women and Girls in Science.

United Nations Academic Impact sees STEM education as an integral part of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and the participation of women and girls as vital to the success of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.  In this series commemorating the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, UNAI speaks to women scientists, researchers, engineers and tech innovators to find out how they are contributing to their fields and their advice for young women who want to forge a path in the male-dominated world of STEM. 

The final interview in our series is with Abeer Seikaly, an architect, artist, designer, and cultural producer. Over the course of her career she has built a foundation of interdisciplinary skills that span architecture, design, art, fashion, textile design, and curation. She joined Villa Moda, a lifestyle and luxury retail group in Kuwait as a senior architect and project manager in 2005 and directed the first contemporary art fair in Jordan in 2010. In addition to her independent practice, Seikaly is also the production manager of Adel Abidin, the internationally recognized Iraqi/Finnish video artist.

In 2012, Sekaily was awarded the Lexus Design Award for her work, “Weaving a Home.” As a witness of the displacement of millions of people across continents due to recent wars and conflict, she decided to create a shelter for those in need. Refugees seeking shelter from disasters carry from their homes what they can and resettle in unknown lands, often starting with nothing but a tent to call home. “Weaving a Home” reexamines the traditional architectural concept of tent shelters by creating a technical, structural fabric that expands to enclose and contracts for mobility while providing the comforts of contemporary life (heat, running water, electricity, storage, etc.).

The design is supposed to give form to a gap in people’s needs. This lightweight, mobile, organic fabric helps people weave their lives back together, physically spinning their built environment into a place both new and familiar, transient and rooted, private and connected. In this space, the refugees find a place to pause from their turbulent worlds, a place to weave the tapestry of their new lives.

Seikaly talks with us how questions drive her work, the influence of history and invisible mentors in her life,  her faith in collaboration to help advance ideas and the importance of empathy in any field.


The following resources provide more information on initiatives for women and girls who aspire to work in architecture and information about design can be combined with technology to help others:

Influences of technology on architecture and design

Architectural Record 

How can technology transform the refugee crisis?

Migrant crisis triggers a wave of tech innovation

16 Women Breaking New Ground in Architecture