Dr. Razan Baker, chairperson of the International Bowling Federation’s (IBF) Women in Sport Committee

16/11/20

Dr. Razan Baker of Saudi Arabia has been appointed chairperson of the International Bowling Federation’s (IBF) Women in Sport Committee by IBF President Sheikh Talal Mohammed Al-Sabah.
Baker currently serves on the Saudi Bowling Federation (SBF) board. She is also director of international communications for the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee.
Growing up in a family of sports enthusiasts, Baker followed her dream of becoming a sports columnist for Arab News. Noticing the limited number of sports role models for young women in Saudi Arabia, she embarked on an initiative to support Saudi women bowlers. With the support and guidance of President of the SBF Bader Al-Alshaikh, she is working to further develop women’s sporting skills so that they may play at the international level.
A breakthrough in this initiative came in 2019 when, for the first time in Saudi sports history, the SBF sent a women’s team to compete at the World Bowling Women’s Championships in Las Vegas. Baker served as the team manager. Over the past two years, the SBF has more than quadrupled its athlete membership, an achievement realized through the outstanding work that the federation has done to support women in sports.
Sheikh Talal said: “Baker has been a big part of this success and therefore her appointment to lead the IBF’s Women in Sport Committee was not a difficult decision. I and the IBF executive board look forward to working with her in the future to champion our female athletes to the next level.”
Baker will lead a team of committee members in establishing strategies that advocate for the increased participation of female athletes in bowling and in leadership positions within the IBF and its member federations.

This article was first published in Arab News

If you want more interesting news or videos of this website click on this link  Arab News Home

How Saudi women are becoming equal partners in progress

01/11/20

Saudi Rodina Maamoun, who employed 19 young women almost entirely replacing the men, sells jewellery at a retail store in Riyadh’s Hayat mall on February 19, 2020. (AFP/File Photo)

Saudi Industrial Development Fund (SIDF) has put gender-inclusive practices at the heart of Kingdom’s industrial development
Noor Shabib, SIDF vice president, says achieving gender parity and promoting women to senior posts are two major priorities
RIYADH: Women’s participation in the workforce and the wider Saudi economy and having more women in leadership positions is one of the key goals of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform strategy. That is why the Saudi Industrial Development Fund (SIDF) has made achieving gender parity and the promotion of women to senior positions a top priority, according to its vice president of strategic planning and business development, Noor Shabib.

SIDF has already reached some important milestones, boosting the proportion of women on its staff from zero to 17 percent in less than three years, making it one of the most successful in this regard among Saudi government entities.

“Not only that — we have women employed in every single department, distributing women leaders and young talent to all departments and in various ranks and positions, ranging from vice president for strategic planning and business development, director of enterprise risk management and a director of the SIDF academy,” Shabib told Arab News. “So, we have women at the highest levels, which is something we’re very proud of.”

Shabib hopes the SIDF’s partnership with the Alnahda Philanthropic Society for Women at this year’s edition of the Women 20 (W20), virtually hosted by Riyadh, has encouraged more Saudi institutions to follow suit.

“The SIDF is an advocate sponsor of W20 and the Alnahda society, joining forces to support the advocacy of women’s issues in Saudi Arabia to empower women, diversity and inclusion in the workplace,” said Shabib.

Established in 1974, the SIDF was created to provide mid- and long-term loans to the private industrial sector. Today it commands capital worth SR105 billion ($28 billion). It is therefore in a strong position to promote change across a whole swathe of the economy.

One of the SIDF’s flagship programs is its Nokhab training scheme, which has been running for over 40 years, providing entry-level employees with advanced qualifications in business, human resources and engineering.

“Two years ago, the SIDF set a 50:50 gender target on the program,” Shabib said. “Our Nokhab program a few years ago was obviously 100 percent men because that’s all you had. We mandated that 50 percent of all fresh graduates coming into this would be women.”

When institutions open up to accepting more women on their staff, they become far more meritocratic, benefiting from a wider pool of talent and experience, Shabib said.

IN NUMBERS
Women and COVID-19
* 22% – Women in G20 countries who lack access to formal bank accounts.

* 64% – Women-led firms’ share of business ops strongly affected by COVID-19.

* 30% – Job losses for women anticipated in COVID-19-affected sectors.

“It means that I can choose the best among men and women,” she said. “The women we have are not the best because they’re women — they’re the best because they worked hard and they earned their spot here. They are competing just like everybody else. We hire the best.”

The result has been a much more positive work culture. “Having women in the leadership team at the SIDF has positively impacted the aspirations of junior women working with us and set for them a good picture of what their career progression could look like,” Shabib said.

Shabib is perhaps a model example of women’s professional empowerment. After completing a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering, Shabib became Saudi Arabia’s first female field engineer with Schlumberger Drilling and Measurements in 2003.

In 2008 she earned an MBA at the University of Oxford and went on to work in Al-Khobar as deputy services manager at Rawabi Trading and Contracting Co. Then, between 2011 and 2017, she joined Saudi Aramco, working in multiple roles. During this time, she completed her second master’s degree in oil and gas leadership and in 2015 became an Eisenhower Fellow.

Shabib co-founded the Group (Qudwa) in 2012 to raise awareness about gender differences in the workplace. Its 5,000 members — 77 percent of them men — conducted over 60 events and workshops and established mentorship programs for young women, which were later handed over to Aramco’s diversity and inclusion division.

From here she took on a job at the Center for Strategic Development, a semi-governmental think tank providing decision-makers with evidence-based research on socio-economic development under the Ministry of Economy and Planning.

The panel also sought to highlight some of the best practices at a local and global level for bringing more women into manufacturing. (AFP/File Photo)

These experiences have clearly served her well since joining the SIDF in 2018. A key part of the fund’s mandate is enabling the National Industrial Development and Logistics Program (NIDLP), which is helping the Kingdom grow into a leading industrial power and international logistics hub through a range of lending and advisory products. Central to this is encouraging more women to launch and manage private sector ventures.

“For the past 46 years, the SIDF has witnessed some of the most successful businessmen that are now leading the industrial sector. Now, as we hire more talented women, we aim to support them and enrich the industrial sector with successful businesswomen,” Shabib said.

“All offerings apply a gender-neutral policy without discrimination on grounds of gender with regards to access to services and opportunities. The SIDF continues to innovate new, more tailored products and services that ensure the same opportunities are offered to both men and women investors to increase the private sector’s participation in the Kingdom.”

These initiatives and more were on show at the W20 summit earlier in October, where Shabib took part in a panel discussion called “Replicating success in inclusive manufacturing,” alongside Selina Jackson, senior vice president of global government relations and public policy at Procter & Gamble, and Mohammed Al-Mutlaq, head of strategy at Alfanar Group.

“The purpose of the session was to highlight the benefits of diversity. These benefits will reflect on the industrial landscape and shed light on reasons why there are fewer female entrepreneurs and industrialists,” said Shabib.

A picture taken on July 29, 2020 shows pilgrims circumambulating around the Kaaba, Islam’s holiest shrine, at the centre of the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Makkah, at the start of the annual Muslim Hajj pilgrimage. (AFP/File Photo)

The panel also sought to highlight some of the best practices at a local and global level for bringing more women into manufacturing — acknowledging where these efforts have been successful and identifying areas in need of improvement.

One success story is an Alfanar factory in Saudi Arabia, which has been operated by a staff of 650 women since 2004. “It is amazing. I visited the factory. It was so humbling and so inspiring because they love the place, they are so happy and empowered and they are growing in their careers. Some of them have been there for 17 years, so they love it,” Shabib said.

Procter & Gamble can also be considered a success story, having achieved 50:50 gender representation on its board of directors.

“One of the most important things that was mentioned is how important gender bias training was in shifting the culture to make the environment more welcoming and retaining of women,” Shabib said. “Selina was saying how eye-opening it was for men when they did the training.”

With these inspiring examples in mind, the SIDF is launching a new program in November, in association with the Council of Saudi Chambers devoted to empowering female entrepreneurs, titled “How to start your industrial project.”

“By hiring more women in the SIDF and investing in their development, whether it’s through our credit program or the programs that we have in partnership with Stanford, LBS, or Fitch Learning, we will be contributing to creating a good base for female industrialists who will contribute to the advancement of the country in the years to come,” Shabib said.

“It will also add to the level of awareness of what it takes to become an ambitious female industrial entrepreneur, which is our vision.”

Twitter: @LujainBenGassem

This article was first published in Arab News

If you want more interesting news or videos of this website click on this link  Arab News Home

Saudi Arabia to establish Future Women’s Civil Association

24/10/20

Ahmed Al-Rajhi. (Supplied)
  • The association’s mission will be to empower, develop, promote, and educate women to contribute toward the objectives of the national vision

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is to establish a Future Women’s Civil Association to help develop the work of the volunteer and nonprofit sector in the Kingdom. Saudi Minister of Human Resources and Social Development Ahmed Al-Rajhi said his decision to set up the civil society was in line with the Vision 2030 reform plan to grow the charity sector in the country.
The association’s mission will be to empower, develop, promote, and educate women to contribute toward the objectives of the national vision, while supporting female participation in leading the Kingdom’s future social, economic, and cultural development.

This article was first published in Arab News

If you want more interesting news or videos of this website click on this link  Arab News Home

Amal Yahya Al-Moallimi, Saudi ambassador to Norway

Time: 23 October 2020  

Amal Yahya Al-Moallimi
Amal Yahya Al-Moallimi has been recently appointed as the ambassador to Norway — making her the Kingdom’s second female ambassador. Princess Reema bint Bandar was Saudi Arabia’s first woman to hold such a position when she was appointed as the Kingdom’s ambassador to the US. Al-Moallimi took the oath of office in an online ceremony on Tuesday, along with several others before King Salman and in the presence of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Al-Moallimi obtained a bachelor’s degree in the English language from Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University, Riyadh. She then studied abroad, gaining a postgraduate degree in mass communication and media from the University of Denver in the US, as well as a fellowship from the Oxford Center for Islamic Studies in the UK. Al-Moallimi began her career more than 23 years ago in education, training and social development. She worked as a teacher for five years and as a mentor for eight. She also worked for one year in the Educational Training Department at the Ministry of Education. She  worked as assistant secretary-general at the King Abdul Aziz Center for National Dialogue. The ambassador also served as general manager of international cooperation and organizations at the Saudi Human Rights Commission (HRC). Earlier, she told Arab News: “The Kingdom’s journey toward empowering women has taken wider and quicker strides and continues to open up new doors every day.”

This article was first published in Arab News

If you want more interesting news or videos of this website click on this link  Arab News Home

Saudi W20 presidency ‘extraordinary,’ says Australia head

Time: 21 October 2020 

Erin Watson-Lynn, head of Australia’s delegation to the W20, center, believes that an ideal society is one where people have the opportunity to reach their potential. (Supplied)
  • Coronavirus pandemic puts spotlight on women’s empowerment, Erin Watson-Lynn claims

RIYADH: The head of Australia’s delegation to the W20, the G20 women’s engagement unit, has described the Saudi presidency of the group as “extraordinary.”

Erin Watson-Lynn added that the coronavirus pandemic has had some positive effects in highlighting and accelerating women’s empowerment.

“I’ve got to say the Saudi presidency of the W20 through Dr. Thoraya Obaid and Salma Al-Rashid and the team has been extraordinary in terms of how they’ve managed and organized the W20 this year. I think it’s been outstanding. So a lot of credit goes to their leadership,” she told Arab News.

“Before the pandemic, women’s empowerment was a huge imperative. Women are overrepresented in low-pay, low-skilled part-time work, so empowering women in the economy is the key to inclusive growth. And the pandemic just accelerates all of this and puts a spotlight on it,” she added.

Watson-Lynn said that women have been burdened by unpaid domestic work, and having to balance work and family responsibilities.

The G20 needs to measure what is going on in terms of gender in the economy. Once you’re measuring data, then you can have policy interventions that you can measure. I think the Workplace Gender Equality Agency in Australia is an example that other countries can look at.

Erin Watson-Lynn, Head of Australia’s delegation to the W20

In Australia, she added, the number of academic papers submitted to journals increased, but the proportion of women submitting them decreased.

“Men can contribute more during this time because they’re working from home. But women working from home need to balance the domestic responsibilities so their contribution to knowledge is decreasing,” she said.

One of the key positions the Australian delegation promoted in the W20 is the use of data, Watson-Lynn said. “You can’t identify your weak spots and you can’t measure progress if you aren’t collecting data.

“The G20 needs to measure what is going on in terms of gender in the economy. Once you’re measuring data, then you can have policy interventions that you can measure. I think the Workplace Gender Equality Agency in Australia is an example that other countries can look at,” she added.

Erin Watson-Lynn

The pandemic has made it feasible to integrate family and work, Watson-Lynn said, adding that women continue to do far more unpaid household labor than men. “So encouraging men to take on more flexibility is important. I think the pandemic has demonstrated to some men that it’s possible. And we see a lot more integration between men and family,” she said.

Watson-Lynn warned that equality concerns both men and women and that there always has to be some balance between taking care of children and work, “but how you split that balance between different people in a household, that’s important.”

Her vision of an ideal society is one where people have the choice and freedom to lead the lives they want and have the opportunity to reach their potential. “That sounds lofty, up in the air and idealistic, but when you think about it, this comes down to being economically empowered, politically empowered and being able to make choices about your life.”

FASTFACT

Erin Watson-Lynn began her career as a labor market analyst. She has written many papers on gender, work, employment and entrepreneurship.

Although the G20 is different this year after moving online, it has been easy for delegates to attend events, Watson-Lynn said. “We can take part in a way that we’ve not been able to before. We have met far more regularly because the meetings are online and we’ve been far more focused on outcomes at each meeting than ever before.”

Having those regular meetings has been good for the W20, she added.

Watson-Lynn began her career as a labor market analyst. She has written many papers on gender, work, employment and entrepreneurship, but a big part of her work through the G20 has been focused on women. “I guess my career has been focused on the international relations space. So it’s been a bit of a hybrid career in that sense. It’s great to be able to contribute to international policymaking through the G20,” she said.

This article was first published in Arab News

If you want more interesting news or videos of this website click on this link  Arab News Home

W20 ‘sherpa’ Salma Al-Rashid champions gender equality and female empowerment

Time: 20 October 2020  

“We’re living in an extremely exciting time in Saudi Arabia,” Al-Rashid said. (Supplied)
  • Prominent Saudi social worker relishes the opportunity to bring together diverse voices from across the globe for a common goal
  • The first ever virtual Women 20 Summit will bring together experts and leaders from a variety of disciplines over Oct. 20-21

RIYADH: Salma Al-Rashid has represented Saudi Arabia at the Women 20 (W20) — the official G20 engagement group on women — since 2018, first in Argentina then last year in Japan. Now, as Riyadh prepares to host the 2020 summit in November, Al-Rashid is delighted to have been named this year’s “sherpa” tasked with undertaking preparatory work for the conference.

Since Oct. 2019, Al-Rashid has been the chief advocacy officer of the Alnahda Philanthropic Society for Women, a Saudi charity that champions female empowerment and participation. At the helm of the W20 Riyadh edition, Alnahda will help facilitate discussions among a network of delegates representing non-governmental women’s organizations, female entrepreneurs and think tanks from across the G20 member states.

The aim is to ensure gender considerations are placed firmly on the table and are included in the G20 Leaders’ Declaration as policies and commitments that foster gender equality and women’s economic empowerment.

“I take the task of head of delegation and sherpa very seriously,” Al-Rashid told Arab News in the run-up to the summit. “I have the responsibility to bring forward the voice of Saudi Arabian women in all their shapes, forms and experiences. I serve as the mechanism to project the voices of women of Saudi Arabia in this global forum.”

Salma Al-Rashid has represented Saudi Arabia at the Women 20 (W20) first in Argentina then last year in Japan. (Supplied)

Recalling her long association with Alnahda, Al-Rashid said she had always been passionate about social and development issues. “Throughout my career, I have firmly believed that by building a global and an inclusive culture, where all voices are heard, regardless of age, sex, race, religious beliefs and political affiliation, we can make the world more just and equitable for all,” she said.

Alnahda, which means “the awakening,” was founded in 1962 to help empower Saudi women economically and socially through targeted development projects.

As a sherpa, Al-Rashid is responsible for the operational management of this year’s W20, its advocacy and communications, and for providing overall support to the W20’s Saudi chair, Dr. Thoraya Obaid. She relishes the opportunity to bring together diverse voices from around the globe for a common goal.

“The W20 this year allowed us to create a bridge between global and local conversations that is meaningful, and at times challenging, with the different perspectives of various sectors of the community on what matters most to women and how we can ensure women’s economic empowerment,” Al-Rashid said.

“The W20 has provided us with an opportunity to contribute to the local advancement of Saudi women.”

Al-Rashid started out with Alnahda as a volunteer. She went on to found a volunteer service program and later shifted to managing academic guidance and career-development programs to give young girls from underprivileged backgrounds a leg up on the competition as well as access further education.

“After that, I co-managed a nationwide campaign to enhance civic education among Saudi men and women during the municipal elections of 2015, when women were allowed to run and vote. So that was an exciting point in my career,” she said.

“The W20 has provided us with an opportunity to contribute to the local advancement of Saudi women,” says Al-Rashid. (Supplied)

Al-Rashid’s interest in the development and social issues started at an early age thanks to her mother, who has been an Alnahda member for over 25 years.

“I’ve had the privilege and experience of listening to the realities and experiences of Saudi women,” she said. “So, I would sit with my mom and just listen to conversations with social workers, beneficiaries, and the leaders and employees of Alnahda.

“I grew up listening to the various experiences, struggles, challenges and obstacles that women face, regardless of their socio-economic backgrounds. I think that’s most probably what sparked my passion.”

With such an impressive background in women’s advocacy work, Al-Rashid seemed like the obvious candidate for the sherpa role, appointed to it in December last year. She is excited to see all the months of planning and discussion come together for the upcoming summit.

“Jointly with our delegates across the G20, we formulate concrete, actionable policy recommendations to further advance gender equality within the G20 negotiations,” she said.

Al-Rashid: We did not ignore this pandemic that hit women the hardest. (Spplied)

“One thing we did this year as W20 Saudi Arabia was an in-house analysis, before January. We wanted to understand how effective the W20 has been in the past five years and how efforts have been reflected at the G20 level, through additionally consulting with international organizations and experts who we call our knowledge partners,” she said.

Based on this analysis, the delegates have settled on this year’s framework. “W20 delegates have agreed that we have three main areas of focus: Women’s financial inclusion, labor inclusion and digital inclusion. And every year a presidency introduces a fourth focus area. We wanted to continue the legacy of past presidencies, and build on their work.”

This year’s presidency proposal was to promote inclusive decision-making, a position jointly agreed by the summit’s 20 delegates. “We need to ensure that women are represented at every level of the decision-making process,” Al-Rashid said.

“If we look across the G20, we have only one female leader among the G20 leaders. We don’t see many women in leadership positions, but W20 goes beyond that. It’s not just women on boards and as CEOs. We recognize that the decision-making process is very complex and there are different stages. We need to ensure that at every stage there is representation of women and that representation is diverse.”

An ongoing challenge the W20 delegation wants to see the G20 address is the lack of women being hired to leadership positions.

“We only recently celebrated the appointment of the first woman CEO at Citigroup. And we know that Wall Street suffers from not having enough women. So, it is a challenge across the globe,” Al-Rashid said.

This is a challenge that Saudi Arabia has risen to meet in recent years, with a raft of new reforms designed to bolster women’s participation and empowerment.

Al-Rashid: We see a lot of reforms and advancement to push for women’s participation in the economic development of Saudi Arabia. (Supplied)

“We’re living in an extremely exciting time in Saudi Arabia,” Al-Rashid said. “We see a lot of reforms and advancement to push for women’s participation in the economic development of Saudi Arabia. One of the goals of Vision 2030 is to accelerate women’s representation in the labor market and in leadership positions.

“We’ve celebrated the appointment of the first Saudi ambassador to the US, Her Royal Highness Princess Reema bint Bandar, and we’ve celebrated a number of appointments of women in both the private and public sector.

“Are we there yet? Are we even close to where we hope to see ourselves? Not yet. It’s a very long journey, but we are on the right track.”

As a result of the global coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, the G20 Summit and all engagement groups are being held remotely. Al-Rashid says the virus and its consequences have laid bare the economic vulnerabilities of women and the vital role of the W20.

“Despite the difficulties and challenges that we were faced with this year, we are privileged and honored to be able to respond to the question of what we can and have done this year,” she said.

“We did not stay quiet. We did not ignore this pandemic that hit women the hardest. We look at it as an opportunity to build back better.”

Al-Rashid sees an opportunity for world leaders to take concrete action in further advancing women’s economic participation. She puts it this way: “Only through empowering women, and through addressing the impact of COVID-19 on women, will we be able to further advance and sustainably recover from this pandemic.”

Twitter: @LujainBenGassem

This article was first published in Arab News

If you want more interesting news or videos of this website click on this link  Arab News Home

Dr. Fatima Al-Hamlan, chair of the global health working group of the Civil Society 20

18/10/20

Dr. Fatima Al-Hamlan is chair of the global health working group of the Civil Society 20 (C20).

She is a scientist in the Infection and Immunity Department at King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center in Riyadh, as well as an assistant professor at the College of Medicine at Alfaisal University in Riyadh.

Al-Hamlan joined the center as a post-doctorate fellow and global clinical scholar in June 2013, and remained in that position until March 2016. She became a research scientist and head of the Scientific Information Office in April that year.

Al-Hamlan’s focus is on conducting research into women’s health and promoting the health and well-being of Saudi females.

She was a founding member of the Riyadh-based Rofaida Women’s Health Organization in 2016 and is its vice president.

In 2007, Al-Hamlan received a master’s degree in population genetics from Washington State University. Five years later, she obtained a Ph.D. in microbiology, molecular biology and biochemistry from the University of Idaho. She also completed executive education courses at Harvard Business School and Harvard Medical School’s Leadership Program to further develop cross-functional skills, lead organizational change and inspire high-performing teams.

She has received awards for her scientific contributions in her field, including the Princess Nourah University’s Women Pioneers in Health Sciences Research Award in 2018.

Al-Hamlan is currently developing a network to advance women’s health, women in STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, and Medicine), and CSOs (Civil Society Organizations) within Saudi Arabia and globally.

This article was first published in Arab News

If you want more interesting news or videos of this website click on this link  Arab News Home

Rania Biltagi, head of communication and partnerships at the King Abdul Aziz Center for World Culture

05/10/20

Rania Biltagi

Rania Biltagi is the head of communication and partnerships at the King Abdul Aziz Center for World Culture (Ithra).
Biltagi has over two decades of experience in corporate communications and marketing. Over the span of Biltagi’s career with Saudi Aramco, she has held multiple positions from heading corporate brand management and advertising to initiating and leading the development of Aramco’s corporate brand strategy and brand refresh that was launched in 2015.
In her tenure at Ithra, Biltagi has overseen communications for several key initiatives that include the royal inauguration of Ithra in 2018, the 29th Arab League Summit, the Tanween Creativity Season, the Eastern Province Season (2019), the 5th Saudi Film Festival and the FIKR17 conference.
Prior to her work with Ithra, Biltagi spent 17 years working in Aramco’s public relations department. Her titles during that time included brand strategist, project manager, art director and brand manager.
In honor of this year’s Saudi National Day, Biltagi also asked Saudi youth to consider what being Saudi meant to them, and spoke about how Ithra’s multicultural outlook could help Saudi youth work out what their identities meant to them.
“Our mandate involves igniting cultural curiosity, exploring knowledge and inspiring creativity, and it’s a task we don’t take lightly. ‘Saudi at heart, multicultural by nature’ has been our motto from the start, and the manifestation of this ideal means we’re continually looking inward even as we look outwards,” she said.
Biltagi holds a BA in communications studies from St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas, and an MA in marketing communications from the University of Westminster.

This article was first published in Arab News

If you want more interesting news or videos of this website click on this link  Arab News Home

Empowerment and inclusion of Saudi women ‘essential for economic growth’

09/07/20

The panelists presented and discussed a number of recommendations for government entities designed to facilitate the professional development and empowerment of women in the economy, technology and entrepreneurship. (Photo/Supplied)

JEDDAH: The empowerment and economic inclusion of Saudi women are necessary steps for the creation of a more productive society that supports improved economic growth. This was the conclusion of a discussion on Wednesday hosted by the G20’s women’s engagement group, W20.

The virtual meeting of the group, which is organized and presided over by Saudi non-profit Al-Nahda Philanthropic Society for Women, concluded the national dialogues on Saudi women’s economic participation. The panelists presented and discussed a number of recommendations for government entities designed to facilitate the professional development and empowerment of women in the economy, technology and entrepreneurship.

“These dialogues highlighted the Kingdom’s efforts to empower women economically, and what was (previously) discussed in (a) closed session on Tuesday confirms that we still have a lot of work to do,” said Princess Moudi Bint Khalid, chair of Al-Nahda Society’s board of directors. “We hope that these sessions will have a significant impact on the development of policies and programs aimed at empowering women, and activate monitoring and follow-up systems.”

The recommendations focused on four areas: financial inclusion, digital inclusion, labor inclusion and inclusive decision-making, with women’s entrepreneurship a common thread running through them all.

The participants highlighted the crucial importance of financial inclusion as a key driver of financial independence and capacity building for women, which builds confidence and effective participation in their country’s economy.

“The current crisis has raised awareness of the need to improve production and increase productivity to a higher level, meaning (there is) a crucial need to involve women more in the market,” said Saudi entrepreneur Lateefa Al-Walan.

She presented the group’s initial recommendations for the empowerment of women in the field of entrepreneurship, which included: offering support through the increased inclusion of women in professional groups, societies and networks; more training in financial literacy and investment; and the establishment of a minimum quota for the number of places for women on organization’s governing boards.

“Entrepreneurship is the largest sustainable resource for any country, and especially so during the current crisis,” said Al-Walan. “Growing businesses also help in diversifying sources of income and raising domestic product. By supporting them, we enable the country’s biggest goals relating to the empowerment of the private sector.”

She added that sustained high-level engagement by, and commitment of, women are essential to challenging the stereotypes about their abilities.

Most of panelists agreed that social behaviors and legal restrictions are among the greatest obstacles to the advancement and empowerment of women in Saudi Arabia. While many of the legal obstacles are being removed as a result of the ongoing reforms in the Kingdom, it can be more difficult and take longer to alter deep-rooted social behavior and challenge stereotypes.

“Changing women’s perceptions about themselves is essential for success in entrepreneurship because working in this field is risky and needs courage and confidence,” added Al-Walan.

Shahd Attar, executive director of the technology and communications department at the Ministry of Investment presented recommendations for digital inclusion. She stressed the necessity of considering the needs of all sections of society when designing and creating technical tools, so that the final product does not have any in-built bias.

“Our main recommendation is to promote the equal participation of women in the design and development of technology, and that they must be at the heart of the creation of the technical solution and not only as consumers of technology,” Attar said.

She agreed with Al-Walan that stereotypes can create uncertainty or lack of confidence in women about pursuing a career or developing their abilities in technical fields.

Mounirah Al-Qahtani, a public policy consultant at Saudi Aramco, said that changes to the law are the main driver of social change.

She presented recommendations designed to improve the inclusion of women in the workforce. These mainly focused on the removal of discriminatory, gender-based labor laws and the promotion of equal rights for women and men, including paternity leave and improved child care services, to increase the sense or responsibility among Saudi families.

Salma Al-Rashed, director of Al-Nahda Society’s development program, said the organization will work with governmental institutions to encourage the adoption of W20 recommendations.

Saudi Arabia holds the presidency of the G20 this year and the group’s annual summit is due to be held in Riyadh in November. The W20 if one of several independent engagement groups, led by organizations from the host country, that focus on different sections and sectors of society and develop policy recommendations for consideration by G20 leaders.

This article was first published in Arab News

If you want more interesting news or videos of this website click on this link  Arab News Home