9 female influencers you should follow on the Iraqi|KRI tech scene
min video //
min read //
November 29, 2023
Women in tech from different corners of the world are challenging stereotypes and leaving their mark in what has traditionally been a male-dominated field. Iraq and the Kurdistan Region (KRI) are no exception, harboring a group of women trailblazers in tech.
We will take you through a tour de force of these incredible and inspirational women in tech in Iraq and KRI, exploring their remarkable achievements, stories, and impact.
If you are a young Iraqi or Kurdish woman with a background in or passion for tech, we hope – through these stories – to ignite light and inspire you to embark on your own journey!
The reality for women in the tech industry
Women in tech face a number of challenges everywhere in the world, and Iraq|KRI are no exception. From underrepresentation and gender pay gap to stereotypes and discrimination, the sector is definitely not the easiest for women. In general, the country also has a long way to go in terms of protecting and advancing women’s rights and participation. According to a study by National Geographic, Iraq was unfortunately rated as the 6th most difficult place in the world to be a woman.
The Illiteracy rate for women is quite high in Iraq and KRI, reaching 26.4% in Iraq – with the rate believed to reach 50% in rural areas – and 30% in KRI.
In the job market, men continue to outnumber women in tech and other sectors. In terms of unemployment rates, the figure reached 28.2% for females in Iraq, which is almost double the unemployment rate of 14.7% for men.
In KRI, the unemployment rate is also high, reaching 13.6% for men and a staggering 29.6% for women.
The female labor force participation rate stood at 10.6% in comparison to 68% for males in Iraq. This is one of the lowest rates for female labor force participation in the world.
The Global Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report in 2021 revealed that Iraq also has a long way to go in terms of bridging the gender pay gap, ranking 154 out of 156 countries worldwide
Today, however, Iraq is on the cusp of a new era. Women from different corners of Iraq and KRI are defying stereotypes and making their presence felt in the tech industry and beyond.
Influential women in tech in Iraq and KRI
So, who are these influential women in tech in Iraq and KRI? Let’s find out!
Danya is a programmer, graphic designer, engineer, and trainer in Baghdad with a training of trainers certificate from the American Board. She is the founder of @thetalkers.co, a digital skills development program for youth, by youth with a mission to ‘empower and inspire the next generation’.
She is a tech content creator on different platforms, including Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube, and she also teaches courses on web development. Her courses include everything from coding languages to UI/UX design. They are suitable for beginners, and they recorded, which makes them particularly accessible and flexible for learning if you’re working full-time.
Danya also has a blog on Instagram, where she gives advice on things like how to find a job in tech, how to make money from side hustles online, and helpful tips for university students in IT.
2. Shams Tech
Shams is an entrepreneur and systems engineer who now works as a marketing manager. She is also a content creator, where she shares insights on tech gadgets and tools through her Instagram. As a big advocate for women in tech, gender equality, and female empowerment, Shams received a scholarship for a Master’s in Gender Equality and Women Entrepreneurship Policy in the Netherlands.
Although she now works in marketing, she continues to advocate for breaking down barriers and creating equal opportunities for women. In her third year of college, she ran a campaign on women in programming in partnership with a large telecommunications company in Iraq, aiming to encourage women to pursue a career in tech. Shams organized training sessions on different programming languages to educate Iraqi women and help them tap into opportunities in a growing sector that is unfortunately largely dominated by males.
Shams is also part of the Google Women Techmakers Ambassador program, where she connects with other female techmakers from around the world who are equally passionate about empowering the women in their communities.
“This has given me the opportunity to learn from other women in tech and to share my own experiences and insights with them”, she adds.
She also gets access to training, mentorship, and networking opportunities that she hopes will help her make a meaningful impact in her community and promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in the tech industry.
Her story to success hasn’t been easy as a young woman trying to prove herself in a male-dominated field.
“I faced many challenges along the way, including doubts from others about my abilities and experience. However, I was determined to prove them wrong and worked tirelessly to develop my skills and knowledge.”
When asked about her advice to young women, she explains, “never let anyone else’s doubts or prejudices hold you back. Keep pushing yourself to learn and grow, take on new challenges, and don’t be afraid to speak up and share your ideas. With hard work, determination, and the right mindset, anything is possible. You can be anything you want!”
3. Ruaa Mohamed
Ruaa is a full-stack web developer, freelancer, and content creator from Baghdad. Through her social media platforms (@codet0live), she conducts and shares interviews with inspirational changemakers in Iraq and the Arab world. She also shares tips and tricks for young professionals and tech students in an effort to nurture a tech culture among women and youth and support them in developing their skills and finding opportunities.
4. Hawra Milani
Hawra actively engages in community organizing, dedicating a significant portion of her time to volunteer work that involves organizing, attending, and speaking at technical conferences worldwide. Having transitioned from being a highschool teacher, she now serves as the Lead Organiser for Google Developer Group Oxford and holds the role of a STEM UK ambassador. Hawra is involved in teaching at code clubs and CoderDojos throughout London and holds certifications as an Apple, Google, and Raspberry Pi Educator.
She is also passionate about using tech as a force for social good for the betterment of communities, including women and youth. Specifically, her PhD research in Cybersecurity from University College London focuses on utilizing natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning to identify cyberbullying in schools. Hawra is also particularly dedicated to reshaping attitudes towards women’s participation in tech.
“I am super passionate about making a difference in the Iraqi community. I especially want to alter community attitudes towards the acceptance of women’s participation in the tech scene.”
5. Sarah Bayati
Sarah is a developer, educator, and community leader with a strong vision for Iraq, Iraqis, and women in tech. After graduating with top results, Sarah continued to teach at her university in Baghdad, covering Android app development.
She additionally led the Facebook Developers Circle in Baghdad and Erbil, overseeing a community of over 4,700 members. Due to her outstanding work, she received a certificate of recognition from Meta for representing and showcasing the incredible tech community and talent in Iraq.
6. Sarah Hamid
Sarah is a young Iraqi who now lives in Cairo, Egypt. She is the founder of Layla Khatoun, a magazine and online platform run ‘by women for women’ to showcase the accomplishments and struggles of women across South West Asia and North Africa (SWANA).
Sarah is very passionate about representing Iraq and Iraqis everywhere she goes and in everything she does.
She is also in the show business, where she sings and acts.
7. Ya khadijah
Khadijah Abdul-Nabi is the founder of Ya Khadijah,, a female-led design and branding studio in Erbil. She studied Fine Arts in NYC and then did her master’s in Middle Eastern Studies in Colombia University.
Ever since she was a little girl, she had been struggling with identity as a Tunisian/ Iraqi girl living in NYC, referring to herself as ‘a third culture kid’. This cultivated in her a curiosity, fascination, and interest in exploring identity.
Today, identity is a core part of her work in visual communications, UX design, and branding, where she works with brands to craft and cultivate brand identities.
Khadijah also led a group of students through the first UI/UX bootcamp by Re:Coded in 2020, which she calls ‘the best experience in her life’.
She moved back to Iraq, where she decided to open her studio, supporting a number of brands across the SWANA region.
Khadijah is a big advocate for the inclusion and empowerment of women. She admits the challenges – in tech and otherwise – are real, but she also thinks women have a unique value in terms of thinking and collaborating differently, which helps them excel. She calls for women in Iraq, Kurdistan, and across the region at large to connect and collaborate so that ultimately, ‘women in tech’ becomes a normal phrase and not one indicating scarcity.
Rula Al Shimary is a young tech project manager, content creator, and environmental concept artist from Baghdad. She works with the TEDxBaghdad team and is currently managing a project to develop new e-passports for Iraqis. Rula is an avid learner with several certificates in project management.
Outside of work, Rula is very passionate about self development.
9. Zainab Azzam
In war-torn Mosul, Iraq, Zainab Azzam defies societal expectations as a female technologist. Overcoming industry biases, she launched the Google Developers Group in Mosul to build a community of tech enthusiasts, offering a range of courses and training programs such as data science, machine learning, and networks. It also provided an opportunity to network with other GDG communities around the world.
She is a big advocate for diversity, inclusion, and education and really believes in the potential for women to contribute at higher levels in the economy. To Zainab, training programs offered to women by universities and NGOs tend to be basic, which she thinks is very limiting.
Through her work and activism, Zainab hopes to introduce new opportunities for women in tech to unleash their potential and thrive in the tech and entrepreneurship ecosystem in Mosul.
If they could do it, so can you!
As you’ve seen, women in tech in Iraq and KRI are breaking barriers and leaving their mark – each in their own unique and impactful way.
But the sector is still in need of more aspiring women like you! We hope through these stories to have inspired you to embark on your own journey in tech. If these women could do it, then so can you!
Who knows? One day, your story could also be up there, inspiring young girls in Iraq and KRI to unleash their potential and take the leap into the exciting world of tech!