Saudi National Day: kingdom's women celebrate drive towards equal opportunities

Female executives credit 'progressive leadership' for their achievements

Dr. Manar Al Moneef, Chief Investment Officer, NEOM. photo: NEOM
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As the kingdom celebrates its 92nd Saudi National Day on Friday, Saudi women are celebrating the nation's progress and their rise to leadership positions across different sectors.

Saudi women have always coveted more visible and pertinent roles in society, and the kingdom's Vision 2030 is the catalyst that has made them possible.

Saudi Arabia has developed a diversified economy thanks to its “progressive leadership”, Dr Manar Al Moneef, chief investment officer at the kingdom's $500 billion city of the future Neom, told The National.

“We are proud of the incredible accomplishments that have ignited the pride of our people all over the kingdom and we continue to strive for greatness,” she said.

Neom will "continue to be a powerful enabler” of the Saudi Vision 2030, she said.

Dr Manar believes Saudi Arabia is committed to women’s empowerment and has enabled women to obtain the “highest levels” of education.

It has encouraged them to participate in various aspects of “economic, political, and social life”.

“As part of Vision 2030, I am grateful for the major reforms and the continuation of the leadership’s efforts to empower women to occupy leadership positions in various sectors," she said.

She said Neom was committed to creating a work environment that "supports, develops and promotes equality and diversity”.

Vision 2030 aims to boost female participation in the workforce to 30 per cent by 2030.

Saudi women make up more than a third of the country's workforce, statistics released in March this year by the General Authority for Statistics show. That marks a 17.4 per cent increase from five years ago.

The female unemployment rate fell to its lowest level in 20 years in the first quarter of 2022.

Many female leaders attribute this achievement to the kingdom's ambitious programme to reshape its economy to become self-sufficient, progressive and diversified.

Saudi women have always demonstrated resolve and “Vision 2030 catalysed this determination into action”, said Dr May Taibah, board member and corporate financial controller at Community Jameel Saudi Foundation.

She has been working in social enterprises for more than a decade, including Bab Rizq Jameel Services and Nafisa Shams Academy for Arts and Crafts.

Vision 2030 caters to the diverse needs of Saudi citizens because it enables every member of society, and especially women, to contribute to socio-economic growth in the kingdom, she said.

The Saudi women fixing cars, not just driving them

The Saudi women fixing cars, not just driving them

“This gives me a front-row seat to witness first-hand the impact of collaboration between the public, private and governmental sectors in fuelling human capability,” she told The National.

It is truly inspirational what can be achieved through the right support framework.”

In the first quarter of 2022, the percentage of women in middle management and senior positions rose from 28.6 per cent compared with 39 per cent in first quarter of 2017, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development said.

But the value added by the growth of the female workforce in the kingdom is not limited to statistics and numbers, said Deema Al Bashrawi, head of operations at Tanmiah, a manufacturer and distributor of food and agricultural products.

She attributed her professional success to a culmination of factors including the strength of the kingdom’s educational framework, which enabled her to earn a degree in economics, and the support of her family.

She said “Tanmiah continues to support my sustained growth” since she joined in 2012 as a manager.

“Today, I look forward to continuing to serve my country, customers, partners, and investors as we continue to support the achievement of Saudi Arabia’s goals towards improving food security, reducing waste, and achieving self-sufficiency,” Ms Al Bashrawi said.

Dr Taibah believes an entrepreneurial mindset is vital to prosperity and extends beyond entrepreneurship.

“The value extends beyond that, to the personal stories of lives, businesses and industries transformed through supportive socio-economic empowerment across the entire framework,” she said.

The World Bank’s Women, Business and Law report for 2020 and 2021 found that Saudi Arabia was among the top countries when it came to implementing reforms and rights related to women.

“Vision 2030 was developed to extend equal support, whether a person is a craft worker, start-up CEO or employee,” Dr Taibah said.

The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development introduced policies that promote inclusivity, and diversity in the labour market.

These were “to enhance the positive image of women in the workplace, and to create a supportive and inclusive environment to facilitate women’s entry into the labour market”, a ministry representative said this year.

“Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been a champion for women's progress and has helped empower women in the labour market by giving us ease of running businesses and authority which does not require a man,” said Ghalia Abdul, who runs a retail store in Jeddah.

Women's right to drive, travel and run their own businesses had helped her to hire more female workers in the last four years, she said.

The Arab Institute for Women’s Empowerment has said that investing in targeted training for Saudi women would have a return on investment of $400 billion by 2030.

“Most young Saudis have an entrepreneurial spirit and the new changes have helped people like me not just run my own business, but also contribute to the economy and create jobs for women,” Ms Abdul said.

Updated: September 23, 2022, 4:56 AM