Discrimination against women widespread

Updated 08 November 2013

Discrimination against women widespread

Many expatriate and Saudi women here say men harass them routinely in public places. They also face discrimination in the workplace in terms of pay and career advancement.
Halimah Kamal, an accountant at a public relations agency, said harassment is a problem for women at malls and at work.
“Many young men, mostly Yemenis and Saudis, harass women in shopping malls while others create difficulties for them in the workplace, despite (the women's) competence and education,” said Kamal.
She said many young men chase women at malls. They follow them into the parking lots and even with their cars. “This happens because of the lack of security at malls and markets,” she said. Maria Ali, a Saudi student, said this has become a major headache for her. “Many young and even old men are a big problem for us. I'm not confident enough to handle them. They don’t show any respect for women,” she said.
She said there is discrimination against women in the workplace too. “Many professional women often work harder than men but are paid less. This discrimination affects their creativity and passion for work.”
Arab News reported this week that a group of young men harassed and verbally abused five young women at a Dhahran mall. The video of the incident went viral, causing widespread anger and calls for new laws to counter sexual harassment.
Arab News also reported recently that many young men pay money or befriend security guards to gain access to malls.
Maleeha Ahmad, a general dentist in Riyadh, said: “With access to satellite television, the Internet and therefore the world, women in Saudi Arabia have become empowered to study, work and become active members of society. But in a male-dominated society there are always obstacles.”
She said a "big factor" holding women back was the driving ban. "Once this is addressed, women will take one huge step closer to finding their rightful place alongside their fathers, brothers, husbands and sons in society.”
Dr. S. Riaz Ali Shah, a general physician at a local hospital, said harassment could cause severe emotional and physical problems for victims including "frustration, sleeplessness, nightmares, headaches, high blood pressure and fatigue.”
“In such cases, the harassed person feels uncomfortable and depressed and can’t perform his or her work well,” he said.
Sondos Al-Jazairy, a Saudi woman, said changes are taking place in the country compared to the past when it was difficult for women to work in a mixed environment.
“Now you'll find men colleagues who treat you with respect, and of course you'll find the opposite. Also, many companies take harassment seriously, and there are consequences and grievance committees to deal with any incident,” she said.
“I'm positive that with more exposure, knowledge and respectful interaction on a daily basis, things will change, and we'll have a safer, positive and healthier environment.”

Saudi businesswomen eye greater role in the economy with end to driving ban

The end of the driving ban is expected to help bring an economic windfall for Saudi women. (Shutterstock)
Updated 23 June 2018

Saudi businesswomen eye greater role in the economy with end to driving ban

  • The historic move is a huge step forward for businesswomen in the Saudi Arabia, says businesswoman
  • A recent survey by the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce indicated that transportation was a major concern holding Saudi women back from joining the labor market

The end of the driving ban will boost women’s financial power and allow them to play a bigger role in economic and social diversification in line with Vision 2030, prominent businesswomen said on Friday.

Hind Khalid Al-Zahid was the first Saudi woman designated as an executive director — for Dammam Airport Company — and also heads the Businesswomen Center at the Eastern Province Chamber of Commerce and Industry. 

She sees the historic move as a huge step forward for businesswomen in the Kingdom.

“Women being allowed to drive is very important; of course this will help a lot in sustainable development as the lifting of the ban on women driving came as a wonderful opportunity to increase women’s participation in the workforce,” she told Arab News on Friday, ahead of the end of the ban on Sunday.

She added that women in the job market are under-represented; they make up to 22 percent of the national workforce of about six million according to official estimates. Lifting the ban will help to take women’s representation in the workforce to 30 percent by 2030, she said.

“This is not just the right thing to do for women’s emancipation, but also an essential step in economic and social development as part of the reforms,” she said.

She said that there were different obstacles in increasing women’s participation in the workforce and other productive activities, and the driving ban was one of them. It was a strategic issue that needed to be addressed on a priority basis. With the issue resolved, it would help immensely in giving Saudi women better representation as they would help to diversify the Saudi economy and society.

She said that women could contribute hugely to the workforce and labor market as half of Saudi human resources were female, and unless allowed to excel in different sectors it would not be possible to do better, mainly because of restricted mobility.

A recent survey by the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce indicated that transportation was a major concern holding Saudi women back from joining the labor market.

Nouf Ibrahim, a businesswoman in Riyadh, said: “It will surely boost female economic participation and help increase women’s representation in the workforce immensely. It will also help to reduce the overall national unemployment rate as most of the unemployed are women and many of them are eligible as university graduates.”

She echoed the opinion that the move would help to bring an economic windfall for Saudi women, making it easier for them to work and do business, and thus play a bigger and better role that would help economic and social diversification in line with Saudi Vision 2030.

“Being able to drive from Sunday onwards after the ban is lifted will be a wonderful experience. Earlier we were dependent on a male family member and house driver to take us to workplace, to the shopping center, school or other required places for some work, now we can drive and that will allow active participation in productive work,” Sulafa Hakami, a Saudi woman working as the digital communication manager with an American MNC in Riyadh, told Arab News.

“Saudi women can now share effectively the bigger and better responsibilities,” she said.