Posts Tagged ‘Saudi women’

Saudi women – a force to be reckoned with!

Sunday, October 6th, 2013

Saudi Arabian businesswoman Lubna Olayan has been on Fortune magazine’s “Global Power 50 Women” list from 2004 to 2009. Forbes included her on its “World’s Most Powerful Women” lists in 2005, 2006, 2007  and 2011, and Time Magazine listed her amongst the “Top 100 Most Influential People in the World” in 2005.

Saudi Arabia, Prince Alwaleed, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, Lubna Olayan, Kingdom Holding Company

Saudi Arabian businesswoman Lubna Olayan (in the middle) debating at The World Economic Forum in Davos.

Several Saudi women are executives at Prince Alwaleed’s Kingdom Holding Company. The Prince has long been a champion of Saudi Arabian women and even has a female Saudi pilot.

Lubna Olayan and the Saudi Arabian women who work for Prince Alwaleed are just a few examples of capable and successful women in the Kingdom. Arabian Business Magazine has compiled a list of the most powerful Saudi women that you will find interesting. And that’s just a few. There are more of them but they usually keep a low profile.

Saudi women sitting on $11,9 billion

A large portion of the Kingdom’s wealth belong to its women who are believed to be sitting on cash totaling $11.9 billion. They are in other words controlling a substantial portion of the country’s wealth.

Women constitute almost 45 percent of the population and have a literacy rate of 79 percent. But only 65 percent of them are employed, despite the fact that 78.3 percent of unemployed women are university graduates.

Women in Saudi Arabia hence account for a substantial pool of human and financial capital with the power and ability to bring about significant social and economic change. It is hence beneficial to the kingdom to give them the same opportunities their sisters enjoy in other Arab nations, which is currently taking place.

King Abdullah championing women’s rights

This year it was decided not only that women are allowed to vote, but they may also run as candidates in elections without the consent of their male guardian. Needless to say this is a huge step forward.

“We are witnessing a rapid and increased investment in our country’s human resources and economic development,” says Princess Adelah bint Abdullah, King Abdullah’s daughter. “Fundamental to this is regulations that encourage greater involvement of women in our work force. The impact of this support can be seen through the growth, productivity and innovation of Saudi Arabia’s women-owned businesses.

The princess explains that Saudi law already permits women to run a business without the guardianship of a man, but added, “Often this law is not enforced. Some people in the government prevent its implementation. They either do not know about it or are opposed to it.

On the mixing of men and women, Princess Adelah added: “I do not see why men and women should not maintain respectful relations in the workplace, as they do in hospitals or during pilgrimage to Mecca. It will come gradually, once people become accustomed to it and laws against harassment are passed.”

Female entrepreneurs on the rise

Women in Sweden are still not being paid as much as a man carrying out the same job ,despite the fact that women have been allowed to vote since 1919. So things are actually moving faster for Saudi women at the moment. Considering that I’m the only Western woman ever who have held a senior management position in a 100% Saudi owned company in Riyadh, I feel a bit like I paved the way for the future, almost like“a Mrs Pankhurst of Saudi Arabia”. Would be delighted to see more female Saudi entrepreneurs build up successful companies and get executive positions of their choice.

Know a lot of capable Saudi women, not least my friend Lubna Hussain that had her own talk show on Saudi Television already in 2008. Should be noted here that in the US Barbara Walters wasn’t allowed to be more than a co-host of a TV show until the 1980s.

Positive changes are coming for Saudi women and it will not take as long as it did in the West. There are plenty of capable women in the Kingdom and they will make a positive contribution to the development and diversification of Saudi Arabia. Not only will they work very well, channeling their huge funds into enterprises and investment activities will earn profitable returns as well as boost money supply.

King Abdullah wants to expand women’s role as active members of society and workforce. So let’s see how long it takes for Saudi women as a whole to personify the King’s vision of capable women bringing honor to the family? How long do you believe it will take? Will we see more women, like Lubna Olayan, leading Saudi businesses say, ten years from now? Or do you believe it will take longer?

(photo: World Economic Forum – Flickr)

What a wonderful surprise – Saudi women will vote!

Sunday, October 2nd, 2011

Saudi women recently woke up to a welcome announcement from King Abdullah that they will be able to vote and run in future municipal elections. Could hardly believe it.  Have lived and worked in Riyadh and understood that changes were coming, but not so much so soon. But unfortunately Western commentators are giving it a negative spin by pointing out that KSA is still behind the West when it comes to women’s rights. Not surprising since in the West we started empowering women a hundred years ago. We should instead focus on the giant step forward King Abdullah took and rejoice that the kingdom is finally changing.  Am absolutely delighted and want to share with you what a female Saudi Arabian academic has to say about it in this 5 minute video:

Wrote an article “Saudi women – a force to be reckoned with” that has been widely read and had hugely positive response from Saudi Arabia and the rest of the world. Only a few non-Saudi Muslim men working in the Kingdom have been critical. Shared the breaking news about the right to vote on Linkedin the minute it broke on Sunday and the same men were, predictably, critical. Saudi men though sent me messages pointing out that these men are not Saudi and that their remarks are wrong and very unfortunate.

Discrimination against women is now ending in the Kingdom. The marginalization of women in society is, according to the King, the main factor that’s slowing down progress in KSA. In his speech, King Abdullah actually went as far as taking a stand against those who oppose progressive thinking and are reluctant to give women their due rights and praised the Ulema i.e the religious establishment for supporting him.

Saudis love their King

Don’t know the king but we have mutual friends and they all describe him as a good and kind bedouin who genuninely wants to improve peoples lives.  Not surpsingly Saudis love their king who has long been a strong supporter of women’s issues and acted for their empowerment. Lived in Riyadh when he became king in 2005. One of the first decrees he issued was to tell the religious police to stay out of commercial premises. Hence never needed to wear the hijab.

Rome wasn’t built in a day

For women in Saudi Arabia this is a huge step forward. Like with everything in life, there will be setbacks but eventually they will enjoy the same rights as women in the rest of the world. How long it will take is anyone’s guess. But it’s coming. In Saudi Arabia not only women but many men as well are happy about the King’s announcement. From what I understand a lot of young Saudi men are no longer interested in having a housewife but want to marry a woman who works.

Educated Saudi women will lead the way

Now the elite of ecucated Saudi women will take the lead to do what their sisters in the West did a hundred years ago and speak on behalf of women who are under priviliged and oppressed. Motivate them to become active citizens and help Saudi Arabia prosper. They will, like earlier generations of women in the West, have to be role models for other women in order to build a socially, politically and economically strong and progressive nation. And they will succeed not least because they passionately want to. In fact I know that many will be delighted to finally be allowed to do so.

It will obviously take time to make especially older women start having a life outside their home. The young girls though, believe me, will be delighted. They used to say to me that they couldn’t understand what I was doing in Riyadh since they wanted to be in the West and have a career and fun.

What’s your opinion? Do you agreee that it was a wonderful and welcome surprise and that King Abdullah will now go down in history as the reformer who paved way for progress in Saudi Arabia? That from this day on the whole world will be monitoring the new role of Saudi women as decision makers? Will conservatives in the Kingdom defy their King and try to prevent equality for women? Should the rest of the world focus on the positive aspects instead of expecting Saudi Arabia to change over night? Is it time for Saudi bashing to stop and for the world to recognize the fact that The Custodian of The Holy Mosques took the decision to empower women and include them in public life? Or should we, like some, lament the fact that he is in favour of gender equality?

(Video: AlJazeeraEnglish – You Tube)