Saudi women moving up the career ladder

SHAFAQNA- Saudi working women have passed several milestones over the past few years and are making excellent contributions in the Kingdom’s development and economic growth.

Many women in Saudi Arabia hold key positions and have proved their capabilities and leadership qualities. They no longer require men to represent them or speak on their behalf.

Over the last three decades, women have been at the forefront of development in the fields of education, innovation and empowerment. However, many of these women still face the age-old problem of men who want to keep them under their control, Al-Riyadh newspaper reported.

Laila Al-Hilali, the former deputy mayor in charge of the Women’s Services Section at Riyadh Municipality, said Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah has empowered women by allowing them to take up key positions in administrative and consultative bodies.

“This has given them immense opportunities to play a significant role in various fields. Saudi women have been able to perform excellently thanks to two major initiatives taken first by the late King Faisal and then by King Abdullah,” she said.

“It was King Faisal who took a firm decision in favor of women’s education. The second initiative was by King Abdullah when he took some major steps in empowering women by offering them key governmental positions, as well as granting them seats in the Kingdom’s Shoura Council, the right to vote and the right to contest municipal elections,” said Al-Hilali.

According to Al-Hilali, most of the powers given to women depend on the mood and temperament of men and not on the intelligence, talent, entrepreneurship and decision making abilities of women.

“As women in key positions, we face challenges and have to engage in a tough battle to prove our capabilities. I was successful in transforming the women’s section with six employees into a services agency and not just a department. I thus became the first deputy mayor for women’s services,” she said.

Al-Hilali thanked the mayor for his support, adding that her accomplishments are due to him as he provided his total support and expressed complete confidence in women.

“I am of the view that women can achieve in key positions if they have the opportunity, willpower, motivation and freedom to take advantage of available opportunities in the best possible way,” she said.

Al-Hilali said women could be successful in the workplace if they show themselves to be challenging, enterprising and enduring.

“For a successful career, they should be able to take decisions, sound decisions that is, and exercise managerial skills. They should also be flexible and open minded,” she said, while cautioning female leaders that they should be serious in utilizing their capabilities in the best possible way.

Nouf Al-Ajami, former director of the department for women at the Saudi Credit and Savings Bank, said winning the confidence of male superiors is important for women to move up on the career ladder.

“Most often it is the temperament of their male superiors that plays a decisive factor with regard to women being appointed to key positions,” she said.

Al-Ajami also drew attention to the fact that on certain occasions, women are entrusted with bigger responsibilities without appropriate executive powers and, as a result, they fail to accomplish their given tasks or make a proper impact. She also said it is unfair to take powers away from women when there is a change at the top of an organization.

Al-Ajami said that though Saudi women have realized a number of successes over the past few years, there are still many women who lack confidence and are hesitant to take up key positions.

“Such women should be provided with training in handling daunting tasks while holding key administrative positions such as crisis management, decision making in difficult situations and shouldering responsibilities without running away from them,” she said.

Hana Al-Rokabi, a senior Saudi television broadcaster, described attempts to marginalize Saudi women from key positions and taking away their powers as a form of “guardianship”.

“There are some in society who are not in a position to digest the very idea of women holding key positions and taking decisions on their own. Even though these men always talk about allowing women to hold key positions in accordance with their qualifications and abilities, they will always try to marginalize women,” she said.

Al-Rokabi is of the view that a Saudi woman who has the vision and ability to make sound decisions can do well in her career as well as in performing her duties as a mother and wife.

“There are some women who are not successful but this is also true of some men. It is essential to change the public’s mindset. People think women are incapable of performing properly when in senior positions,” she added.

Nora Al-Fayez achieved something revolutionary in the Kingdom when she became deputy minister of education for girls’ affairs. She was the first woman to be ever given a ministerial position in the Kingdom.

“As a minister, I have the same powers that are enjoyed by the deputy minister for boys’ affairs. There are several key positions awaiting Saudi women. The role for women in key positions was very limited in the past but now there are several such positions awaiting qualified Saudi women,” she added.

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