Today marks International Women’s Day, an occasion on which to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women across the globe. Over recent decades, the world has witnessed a significant change and attitudinal shift in both women’s and society’s thoughts about women’s equality. And this counts for Saudi Arabia as it does for the EU’s member states.
Despite having a different system of values, traditions and governance, Saudi Arabia too is changing, and is putting women at the forefront of its transition into the future. Indeed, the role of women is anchored in Vision 2030, the Saudi government’s ambitious economic reform plan, that will boost women’s participation in the workforce from 22 to 30 percent by the end of the next decade.
Already, over the last ten years, women’s employment in Saudi Arabia has increased by 48 percent women, and women outnumber men in Saudi universities. Only last month, Saudi Arabia’s stock exchange – the Tadawul – took the historic step of appointing Sarah Al Suhaimi to the position of chairperson, the first woman to ever hold the position. The announcement was followed by the appointment of Rania Mahmoud Nashar to the position of chief executive of Samba Financial Group, one of Saudi Arabia’s largest national banks.
In the political sphere too, women now represent around 20 percent of the Shoura council’s 150 members, a greater proportion than women in the US Congress according to the World Bank. Equally it was announced earlier this year that Arabia Gulf Air is expanding the variety of roles available to Saudi women, who are now in charge of customer service, data input, passenger information verification, boarding passengers and providing services to first-class passengers, families and people with special needs.
The appointment of women to increasingly diverse roles at different levels of society shows Saudi Arabia’s resolve to boost the presence of women among all levels of its workforce as part of the Vision 2030 roadmap for economic success. The future is brighter than ever.
The remarkable contribution of women to Saudi society is showcased in a book by Dr Mona Salahuddin AlMunajjed, Saudi Women: A Celebration of Success. Dr AlMunajjed is an award-winning and prominent sociologist in her own right, and her work celebrates the success of women in acting as the driving force behind the Kingdom’s development through the 21st century. She demonstrates how the empowerment of women can have social and economic benefits, engendering positive changes through increased creativity and innovation.
There is of course still much progress to be made, and Vision 2030 includes a number of other reform strategies that will see the Kingdom to develop women’s talents, invest in their productive capabilities and enable them to strengthen their future and contribute to the development of the Saudi society and economy. We look forward to Saudi women making crucial contributions in the economic transformation launched by Vision 2030 and securing prosperity for the Kingdom’s future.