Remarkable week for Saudi women as females conquer top financial jobs

In a historical moment for Saudi Arabia’s male-dominated financial sector, three women have been named to top jobs in key companies. (AN photo)
Updated 22 February 2017
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Remarkable week for Saudi women as females conquer top financial jobs

JEDDAH: Three women have been appointed to top jobs in Saudi Arabia’s male-dominated financial sector in the space of just one week, in what marks a historical moment for both the industry and wider society.
Sarah Al-Suhaimi is now the chair of Saudi Arabia’s stock exchange, the Tadawul; Rania Nashar became the CEO of Samba Financial Group; and on Tuesday it emerged that Latifa Al-Sabhan has been appointed chief financial officer of Arab National Bank (ANB).
Al-Suhaimi is now chairing the largest bourse in the Middle East, and replaces Khalid Al-Rabiah, the Tadawul announced on Thursday. She is expected to keep her position as CEO of the investment-banking unit at National Commercial Bank (NCB) Capital.
Under Al-Suhaimi’s leadership, NCB Capital has over 1 million clients and SR77 billion ($20.5 billion) of assets under management, which made it the largest asset manager in the Kingdom, according to a statement on the official website.
Following the move by the Tadawul, Samba Financial Group on Sunday named Rania Nashar as CEO, in a move that will see her continue her 20 years of experience in banking.
And just yesterday, Al-Sabhan became the chief financial officer of ANB.
The moves come in line with a goal outlined in the Saudi Vision 2030 reform plan to increase the participation of women in the workforce from 22 percent to 30 percent.
Suhaila Zain Al-Abideen, a Saudi social activist and senior member of the National Society for Human Rights, said this is a good initiative. “It is the least that can be given to Saudi women because they deserve much better. It is a step toward seeing women leaders in other sectors,” Al-Abideen said.
Hatoon Al-Fassi, a Saudi writer and visiting professor at Qatar University, also praised the appointments and said it is a step forward. “It shows the country (government) is serious in dealing with offering women leading positions and it shows that when the government wants something and gives promises, the change comes to reality immediately,” she told Arab News.
Despite the recent wave of optimism among women in Saudi Arabia, there are still obstacles and challenges facing working women.
“You give these women trust to handle the country’s fortune, while (others are seen as) incompetent. It is somewhat (contradictory),” said Al-Fassi, who was general coordinator of the Baladi Initiative, an advisory body for women candidates and voters in the 2015 municipal elections.
Both Al-Fassi and Al-Abideen believe that working toward better empowerment of women requires a change of many rules.
Al-Fassi said she is also waiting to see rapid changes in rules that affect the daily lives of women. “The main issue when it comes to empowerment is that there are still rules which discriminate against women and make them... incapable of taking important life decisions,” she said.
Al-Abideen told Arab News: “The fact that women have reached these positions but still do not have the freedom to move or travel… these things have to change. Women are fully competent just like men. Guardianship should only be practiced over minors and incapacitated people.”
Other reactions were reflected on micro-blogging service Twitter, which is actively used by 20 percent of the Saudi population.
A few users remarked that women should only stick to lower positions in the workplace, so they do not neglect their homemaking duties — views that provoked a strong reaction from Al-Abideen.
“I was shocked by a wave of criticism that are against the appointment of women in leading positions managing men. Some said this would lead to ruining the women’s morals and hence will negatively affect the society and that these are Westernized ideas. This reaction is sadly coming from academics!” Al-Abideen said.
Saudi Arabia has been appointing more women in decision-making positions in the past few years.
“Saudi women are yet another great asset. With over 50 percent of our university graduates being female, we will continue to develop their talents, invest in their productive capabilities and enable them to strengthen their future and contribute to the development of our society and economy,” the Vision 2030 reform plan states.
In 2011, the late King Abdullah announced that women would have the right to join the Shoura Consultative Council and the right to run and vote in the municipal elections. “We refuse to marginalize women in society in all roles that comply with Shariah,” he said at the time. Today, the representation of Saudi women on the Shoura Council stands at 20 percent.


Disappointed fans hail improved performance by Saudi Green Falcons but defeat ends World Cup dream

Updated 21 June 2018
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Disappointed fans hail improved performance by Saudi Green Falcons but defeat ends World Cup dream

  • A fan named Yousif, who watched the match at the General Sports Authority viewing tent, was happy that the game at least was close this time.
  • Saudi Arabia will face off against Egypt, who also lost their opening two group A games against Uruguay and Russia, on June 25.

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s World Cup dreams were shattered after Uruguay beat the Green Falcons 1-0 in the second of the three group-stage matches. Most Saudi fans in Jeddah were much happier with the team’s performance in game two, following the resounding 5-0 defeat by host nation Russia in the opening match on June 14, but still bitterly disappointed by the loss, which means they cannot qualify for the knockout stages.

Yousif, who watched the match at the General Sports Authority viewing tent, was happy that the game at least was close this time. “Although we lost, the performance was much better than the first game with Russia. I hope we win our next match,” he said.

Nasrah, who watched the game with her two sons, said: “I was really disappointed because we played good today and nothing less than a win should have been acceptable. I am also disappointed to see the looks on my boys faces when the game ended as they were hoping for a win.”

Khalid Al-Raghbi said at least it had been a good match to watch. “We played a bit better today,” he added. “I wish we would have won but at least we performed better than our last match against Russia.”

Before the game, Ibrahim Al-Turki had been optimistic about Saudi Arabia’s chances. “We didn’t expect today’s result. I was thinking that Saudi would win by two goals, and Uruguay would score one,” he said.

The result was especially disappointing given the close result and the number of chances the Saudis had to score, said Badr, who added: “I don’t know what to tell you because we are deeply disappointed. At least if we lost with a big defeat I would say we deserved it. We had the potential but we could not score.”

Shadi Al-Ghamdi said he wished the national team’s much improved performance in their second game had been more evident in their first. “I am very proud of the players, I thought they played very well. I just wish they had played like this against Russia," he said.

Safah was less complimentary and said that the Saudi players had let their fans down, adding: “They seemed scared whenever they attempted to score any goals.”

Saudi Arabia will face off against Egypt, who also lost their opening two group A games against Uruguay and Russia, on June 25. It will be the final game in the competition for both sides, with only pride to play for, as they battle it out to see who will finish third in the group and who will be left in bottom spot.