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Title: Designing for STEM E-Mentoring for Young Women: the Saudi Context
Authors: Alhadlaq, Aseel
Issue Date: 2020
Publisher: Newcastle University
Abstract: The underrepresentation of women in the STEM workforce is a global issue. In Saudi Arabia, women constitute 48% of undergraduates in STEM. This is in large part a result of the unique cultural context, gender segregation in educational institutions and the perceived prestige associated with studying a STEM subject for both women and men. However, these high levels of educational participation have not translated into a significant increase in the number of women in the STEM workforce. The exposing of girls to female role models and mentors in STEM, and raising awareness of their achievements and successes, is an approach that has been developed by previous research to address perceptions that girls are less likely to succeed in a STEM field than boys. In Saudi Arabia, the lack of female role models and the absence of mentoring and support programmes are likely some of the factors that have contributed to the low levels of progression of female graduates into STEM professions. In this research, I explore the current state of e-mentoring, seek to understand the requirements in designing STEM e-mentoring platforms for teenagers and young women in the Saudi context and understand how mentors and mentees interact within an e-mentoring relationship. I conducted four studies that aimed to understand, design and evaluate e-mentoring in the Saudi context. First, I deployed a structured STEM e-mentoring program, with the aims of understanding the applicability of e-mentoring in Saudi Arabia. The findings from this study led to carrying out two co-design studies to explore the perceived barriers to, and opportunities for, alternative and more flexible forms of e-mentoring. The findings from the three studies have led to the design of Qudwa based on four design requirements: 1) flexibility and control; 2) visibility; 3) integration of e-mentoring with daily internet activity; and 4) a trusted connection between mentors and mentees. Finally, I discuss the deployment and evaluation of Qudwa. This research makes three contributions, first it is the first systematic investigation of e-mentoring in Saudi Arabia. While I aimed to understand the role of cultural norms, the studies show that the findings are affected less by cultural norms and more by the traits of the participants’ age group. The second novel contribution of this research is the application of co-design methods to help address the gap in understanding the needs and opportunities in designing e-mentoring for young people. The results point to a need for a shift in the design of e-mentoring models for younger generations into less committed and more flexible relationships. Finally, it presents the design and evaluation of Qudwa, which facilitates e-mentoring through existing social media technologies and practices (un-platforming).
Description: PhD Thesis
Appears in Collections:School of Computing Science

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