Saudi Arabia has shown remarkable intent and commitment to bring more women into the labour force. It is becoming a common sight to see more and more women in offices, boardrooms, shop floors and construction sites. The General Authority for Statistics (GASTAT) reports that female participation in the labour workforce increased from 20% in late-2018 to 33% by the end of 2020—an impressive expansion of 64% in just two years! 

The shift at the workplace is a practical one in which Saudi Arabia is heading towards greater economic diversification to reduce its reliance on the oil economy. The Kingdom acknowledges the benefits it would reap from the talent and skills of women in a post-oil future. 

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is moving at breakneck speed to reach the goals envisioned in Vision 2030, a blueprint for Saudi Arabia’s multi-faceted economic diversification program. In a World Bank report titled ‘Women, Business and the Law 2020’, Saudi Arabia ranked highest among the economies that exhibited the most progress since 2017 among women in areas of mobility, workplace and entrepreneurship. 

Training women professionals 

Saudi Arabia has put in place a series of measures, strongly backed by law, to empower more women to enter the workplace including many new industries that are growing in female participation. Two examples are from the Ministry of Trade and Ministry of Education. The Ministry of Trade has released several initiatives to infuse the country’s economy with active female workforce participation. Systems and processes are being reworked to enable more women to contribute meaningfully to the economy, whether in employment or as entrepreneurs. 

The country’s Ministry of Education is supporting the influx of women at work by introducing the National Program for the Development of Education. A higher number of women (57%) are enrolled in university, making them qualified and suited for gainful employment. 

The skill development goes beyond university to the workplace, too, in the ongoing commitment to get more women to actively participate at work. In July 2020, 15 female engineers underwent training in electricity generation, led by experts at the Jeddah South Thermal Power Project. This hands-on training was jointly organized by the King Abdulaziz University and Effat University. 

Women are interested in not just technical training but also in leadership roles. The Qiyadat (Female Leadership) initiative by the Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Misk Foundation launched a training programme in which it will hone the leadership skills of 100 young women in eight different areas. The aim of this training is to uncover women’s leadership skills, giving them the confidence to lean into their positive influence as future managers and leaders in corporate settings. 

Saudi Arabia is going through a deep cultural shift across all employment sectors. To navigate these changes, various players – the government, industries, and the women themselves – are joining hands to encourage more female participation at the workplace. 

A culture of inclusion

As a recruitment advisory that is entrenched in the Middle East, Michael Page understands Saudi Arabia’s evolution from a vantage point. Our knowledge and experience of this culture helps us update female candidates of changes in the Kingdom’s business and economy. Many sectors that were traditionally male-dominated are now opening their doors to qualified women candidates. Having witnessed these shifts up-close, we are aware that women will play a valuable and indispensable role in Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030. Some of the roles most in demand are heads of Human Resources, Project Management, Strategy and Finance.   

When it comes to attracting expat female candidates, there is a vast pool of female talent that our clients in Saudi Arabia can tap into. This is where we step in as an advisory service to help companies exercise their flexibility and creative thinking to attract the best talent. When hiring female expats, it is an integral part of the process to advise candidates (and their partners, often) on the cultural sensitivities in Saudi Arabia and what to expect. This is an exciting time in the growth of Saudi Arabia’s economy, and women are going to play a huge part in this phase. The country can offer career-defining roles for women that may not be available in other, advanced markets. In this process, Michael Page educates candidates on the expectations and growth opportunities. 

Finding the right fit

When hiring female Saudi nationals, the challenge is in finding the right opportunity for them. The good news is that almost every sector is opening its doors to women. Sample this. Saudi Arabia has 1,400 registered female engineers. Uber, the taxi app, recorded a 48% year-on-year increase in the number of weekly active Saudi female drivers in the kingdom since 2018, the company reported. Uber launched Masaruky, a programme offering flexible, part-time work to women.

The Covid-19 pandemic has provided a good opportunity for women to enter the workforce in a hybrid environment, starting remote work at first and then easing into the office space. Childcare is often a worry and a deterrent for working mothers to further their career goals. The Saudi Human Resources Development Fund introduced the Qurrah program to mitigate the childcare concerns for working women so that they can get financial support and logistical support to enroll their children in nurseries and daycare centers across the kingdom. The program aims to encourage more qualified mothers to enter gainful employment in the private sector. 

It is hoped that more and more women joining the workforce will provide the buoyancy needed for the country to sail on steady economic seas. With about a third of the women keeping afloat the economy, it will encourage more women to enter the workforce.  

Even traditionally male-dominated industries are undergoing shifts to welcome women. We are noticing an increased demand for women in real estate, engineering, technology, finance, etc. Aramco, Saudi Arabia’s Oil Company, runs a series of diversity and inclusion programs to not only prepare women for all levels of roles -- from entry-level to senior leadership roles -- but also to prepare the company culturally to see more women on the shop floor and in boardrooms. 

This is a new, exciting time for Saudi Arabia as it floods the economy with many new opportunities for women to build a career and to contribute to the economy. 

If you are looking for new opportunities to springboard your career, then apply for jobs in Saudi Arabia. As a business, if you would like to expand your team, then contact us to be your recruitment partner. 

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