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‘This is our time to shine, dream big and be creative’: Saudi women reveal how Vision 2030 is helping their careers

Young Rana Abdullah Zumai began her career before most Saudi Arabian women when she joined a firm specializing in tailoring and embroidery in 2013.

“One of the challenges I faced is that I started leading factories in 2013 when women would never lead companies,” said Zumai, explaining the hardships she encountered during her journey.

The Saudi national has pioneered diversity and inclusion programs in her primary areas of expertise, including human development and economics.

Currently, a senior director of corporate communications and knowledge at the Saudi Geological Survey, she plans to expand and improve the firm she operates in by aligning the firm’s vision with Saudi’s 2030 vision.

“In the near future, I would love to create, and I’m working on creating a corporate communication and knowledge department in Saudi Geological Survey,” said Zumai, sharing her future aspirations for the institution she is currently leading.

Talking about what skills are needed to be a successful woman in the Gulf Cooperation Council area, she said one should act in a way where “you will be proud of yourself all the time, and you will represent your country out of all the countries in the GCC in the right way, mirroring your culture and beliefs.”

Vision 2030

Zumai is a shining example of what change the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 can bring to society as far as women’s participation in the workforce is concerned.

She described how the progression of women in the workforce, and more specifically the development in her career, is proof that Vision 2030 is “changing her life and not just talk on paper.”

Launched in 2016, Saudi’s Vision 2030 has been a guiding force behind all the legislative reforms the Kingdom has brought over the last six years to promote women’s participation in business and society.     

These modifications became more evident by the year 2017 when the Kingdom passed an order allowing women to use government services without the approval of their male guardians.

In 2018, over 48,000 women joined the workforce, an increase of 8.8 percent from the previous year, with female employment today being at an all-time high in the Kingdom, according to Saudi’s General Authority for Statistics.

Encouraged by this, Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Labor and Social Development launched the Women in the Workplace program in January 2019, eventually mandating equal remuneration.

These changes began to have far-reaching impacts on the business world and beyond. The Kingdom, for instance, became one of the first states in the region to have a female football league in February 2020.

Rulings such as the one by a court in July 2020 declaring that Saudi women living alone should not be penalized are further encouraging women to come out of their shackles and embrace the abundance of opportunities that the Kingdom has to offer.

These changes are reflected in the fact that the Kingdom awarded 139,754 new commercial licenses to women in 2021, indicating one of the highest growth rates in the world.

Today, Saudi women are open to venturing into areas of work that are traditionally considered male-dominated, even in the Western world.  

For instance, a recent job advertisement in Saudi Arabia for 30 female train drivers garnered interest from 28,000 candidates, demonstrating the extent of demand among women for such positions as the Kingdom expands possibilities for them.

As Saudi Arabia brought in a series of legislative reforms over the past several years, this is helping elevate the level of expertise, competence and skills among the women workforce.

These reforms are further helping to develop proper mechanisms centered on entrepreneurship and creativity for women to take part and flourish.

As a result, women are constantly evolving and making their marks in various fields today.

For instance, Saudi Arabian food and beverage entrepreneur Naaisa Al-Oteishan, who started her business journey from a home bakery, today runs her own F&B consultancy firm in Riyadh with business partner Amjad Hamadeh.  

“‘Head 2 Table’, our consultancy firm, acquired its first deal with the Ministry of Investment. We will be going to AlUla to bring innovative Greek-Saudi dishes to serve the Greek delegation that is arriving in Saudi Arabia for business deals with the Kingdom,” she told Arab News.

Al-Oteishan also co-founded Yello, a breakfast and brunch restaurant, in Riyadh. “The concept behind our menu is international with fusion; we mix Kimchi, which is from Korea, with beef and eggs, for example,” she added.

Sharing her success mantra, Al-Oteishan said she advises Saudi women and entrepreneurs to keep going and never stop. “This is our time to shine, dream big and be creative,” she added. 

Raghad Fathaddin

Another successful entrepreneur is Raghad Fathaddin. The founder of the Sangha “Estidama Hub” platform shared how her development programs enable Saudi youth and future leaders to stand out by being properly placed in the present economy to lead the future’s well-being economy.

Fathaddin was a candidate for the Kingdom’s SPARK program, an initiative aiming to support entrepreneurs implementing their business ideas.

“They selected a few of us to receive a prize, and I’m happy I was one of them. It really helped me kick-start this journey and helped Sangha come to life,” said Fathaddin.

Her short-term goals would be to create an online platform that would teach trainees to deliver their programs to schools.

In the long run, she said they really hope to see Sangha become part of Saudi’s education system, both in public and private schools. “Not only in Saudi, I see it becoming global. We already received so many people from New York and Italy interested in the work we do,” revealed Fathaddin.

From a region that did not perceive women as active players in the labor force, the GCC is fast emerging into a society witnessing immense growth in female participation.

The Kingdom, more specifically, improved women’s participation in the labor market, with an increase of 31.8 percent in 2021, exceeding the 2020 target of 27.6 percent, according to the Unified National Platform, GOV.SA. 

Saudi Arabia is looking to develop further and implement its gender equality and green initiatives as it steadily marches towards achieving the vision of building a more inclusive and sustainable nation by 2030.

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