Saudi women’s road ahead

Today, Saudi women are working, flying aeroplanes and driving cars. The future is even brighter.
Sunday 01/07/2018
Still a way to go. Women leave the Saudi Driving School inside Princess Nora University in Riyadh, on June 23. (AP)
Still a way to go. Women leave the Saudi Driving School inside Princess Nora University in Riyadh, on June 23. (AP)

Saudi Arabia needs qualified women in decision-making positions in governmental and civil institutions. The dazzling renaissance push, competently led by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, necessitates a serious examination to expand the range of work options available to Saudi women and increase their participation in executive and legislative bodies.

The presence of Saudi women in positions of public service is very limited despite their becoming effective and important partners in national committees and institutions, such as chambers of commerce, literary clubs, social service organisations and some government institutions. We can cite positive and encouraging examples, such as Tamader al-Rammah, first female deputy minister of labour and social development, and Noura al-Fayez, former deputy minister of education.

This is good but we aspire to see more capable and deserving Saudi females accede to high leadership positions.

Increasing women’s share in the labour market is among the most prominent goals of Saudi Vision 2030. Saudi women have attained the highest positions, such as deputy minister and university dean and we look forward to seeing their potential tapped for even higher positions and to seeing them participate in cabinet meetings with ministerial portfolios.

A royal decree issued December 12, 2014, stipulated that women enjoy full membership rights in the Saudi Shura Council and sets aside a minimum of 20% of the seats for women; 30 of the 150 members of the current Shura Council are females.

Riyadh has also decreed the right of women to participate as candidates and voters in municipal elections but Saudi Arabia is far from achieving gender equity to reduce the gap between the public and the private sectors. Saudi Vision 2030 aims to increase Saudi women’s share in the labour market to 22-30% by 2030.

The Ministry of Justice revealed that the number of licences delivered to female lawyers increased 240% in the last three years. The number of female lawyers in Saudi Arabia has jumped from 63 to 280. There are dedicated female sections in the military, passport services, the penal system, airports, civil defence and drug enforcement but the participation of females in the public sector and at different ranks remains low.

The number of males in high-level positions stands at 9,795 but that of women does not exceed 154. The Saudi Basic Law of Governance guarantees equal rights and duties for all Saudi citizens without gender discrimination. So opportunities need to be afforded to qualified and deserving Saudi women to become university presidents and ambassadors and to effectively head official delegations representing the kingdom in international forums.

Today, Saudi women are working, flying aeroplanes and driving cars. The future is even brighter. To get there, Saudi Arabia needs to create a work culture based on merit and equality without regard to gender. It’s going to be a rough and bumpy road but only for those who would lose hope.

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