SOURCE: Arab News
Time: June 10, 2016
Huda Mohammad Al-Ghoson, the executive director of human resources at Aramco, is a leader by nature. A practical person who has made many contributions to the community, Al-Ghoson has attained advanced degrees and managed to prove Saudi women are able to compete with men in leadership and management positions.
A role model for Saudi women in her capacity as HR director, Al-Ghoson speaks to Sayidaty about her rise to the top.
How did you start your career and what does it feel like being the first woman to assume a leadership position in a large company, such as Aramco?
I started my career in the Saudi Aramco oil company in 1981. I held many positions in human resources and workforce support, including health care services and the plans and policies of human resources management, until I reached my current position. I am very happy to be the first woman in the history of Saudi Aramco to assume a leadership position. I am now the immediate supervisor of all the company’s human resources management and development programs, which covers over 66,000 employees of 80 different nationalities.
Who influenced you in your life and who motivated you to achieve this distinctive experience?
I gained a unique experience from working for 34 years with this leading company in different positions. This has given me a deep understanding of the company’s activities and allowed me to build a strong network of relationships with my colleagues in the company and through its international partnerships.
No one influenced my life more than my mother, Shaha Deghaither, may God have mercy on her. She was a good reader and an insightful person with strength of character and determination and very active with charities in Riyadh. She insisted her children, especially girls, have a good education, and taught me to be independent, confident and responsible. My mother fostered in me the spirit of innovation, imagination, critical thinking and sensitivity to human feelings and emotions. I will always be grateful to her for my success in my career, as I remember how she used to push me to join Saudi Aramco. She even brought the job application to me.
What are your main functional tasks?
As the Executive Director of Human Resources at Aramco, I am responsible for developing and implementing the company’s overall human resources strategy. An important part of my job is to ensure the availability of workforce and skills to support the company’s operations and to provide the right combination of human resource services to create a stable and productive work environment that allows employees to flourish and grow. This is done in close cooperation and continuous coordination with the company’s heads of departments to provide effective solutions to support workers according to best global practices in human resources management. Plus I monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the progress made to ensure developing proper plans and practices to achieve the best results in the near and long term.
Which challenges do you face?
The most important challenge is to ensure the continuous availability of leaders, talents and expertise to support current and future activities, by providing an attractive work environment and encouraging incentives to attract highly productive talents and maintain them. It is very challenging to find workers in areas that are so diverse. The company has four generations of workers and each generation has its own aspirations.
What advantages have you gained from the company?
It has provided me and other female workers with development and training opportunities and the chance to grow based on merit, qualifications and performance. In addition, it has removed the obstacles that prevent the recruitment of women and limit their chance to grow and develop. Aramco provides equal benefits and wages to men and women and maintains the policies and programs that help to create diverse and inclusive work environment. This has given my female colleagues and me the chance to progress without any bias. Aramco employs more women than other companies in the country; the first Saudi woman was appointed in 1964. It also offers scholarships to women in various disciplines, including the oil and gas sector, in addition to international training courses.
Thanks to this support, 84 women have leadership positions at Aramco, and they play a critical role in the progress of our society and our economy.
As a Saudi woman who works at a large company, how do you see your role in society?
I was one of the first women to work at Aramco. The prevailing belief back then was that women do not have leadership capabilities, that their ambitions are limited to marriage and motherhood and they are unable to handle pressures and challenges. Therefore, job opportunities for women were very limited. I have worked hard to change this perception and I have succeeded. I was determined to prove my professional and leadership potential and that Saudi women can assume leadership positions just like women in other countries. Appointing a woman in a high-level position at Aramco is an important event, since men dominate leadership positions in the oil sector.
How can women obtain leadership positions?
Women have to work hard, pursue their education, apply work ethics in dealing with others, benefit from other people’s experiences, develop their capabilities and keep up with latest developments in their areas of expertise. They also should seek knowledge, exchange ideas with others and look at things from different points of view. To achieve success in an increasingly competitive world, women should be confident and strong in dealing with daily life problems and be disciplined in their jobs, especially at the beginning. Just like men, women can assume leadership positions if they want to. There are many examples of women leaders in the Arab world who have left their footprints in economic and social fields. We still have a lot to do locally, regionally and globally to create equal opportunities for women to help them advance. We are proceeding slowly to the goal while the region continues its efforts toward a better future for all.
Do you assume other leadership positions, besides your position at Aramco?
I am a member of several administrative boards, including the board of directors of Yanbu Aramco Sinopec Refining, Saudi Aramco Development Company, Johns Hopkins Aramco Healthcare, Saudi Aramco Investment Management Company, Saudi Aramco Asia Company Limited and the General Organization for Social Insurance. I am also the head of the Board of Trustees of the Arabian Society for Human Resource Management, a member in the Advisory Board of the Saudi Electricity Company and the Advisory Board of TATA Consultancy Services Ltd.
How do you spend your time when not working?
I spend time with my family and friends and also practice my hobbies, such as painting, reading and exercising. I also allocate time for community services, such as participating in seminars and exchanging experiences. Sometimes, it is difficult to balance these three aspects, so I have to set priorities as necessary.
What does the future hold for female graduates and what is your advice to them?
Many opportunities are now available for female graduates, but they have to be patient, work hard and make use of their time, in order to develop their skills in the areas required by the labor market. They also have to learn from the experiences of successful women and promote themselves to expand their circle of relationships with the right people. They have to know their ambitions and capabilities to achieve their goals. I advise female graduates to take the initiative, offered by our government, and enter the entrepreneurship sector and become productive, instead of aiming for limited jobs that kill ambition and individual initiatives.
• Huda Mohammad Al-Ghoson is a leading Saudi woman in the field of management.
• She grew up in Riyadh and received a Bachelor of Arts and Humanities from King Saud University.
• Al-Ghoson holds a master’s degree in Business Administration from the American University in Washington DC.
• She has over 34 years of expertise at Aramco.
• Al-Ghoson has completed several programs in leadership and management, including health, administrative and development plans and attended many seminars in London and the University of Michigan.
• The Saudi woman was ranked fourth among the most powerful Arab women in the field of Executive Management, according to Forbes. She was also seventh among the most influential figures in energy for 2015, according to “Arabian Business” and the first in the Arab Woman Award for 2014 in the business world.