Car rental firms to offer jobs to Saudi women

WIth the lifting of ban on driving, Saudi women are all set to take up jobs in a variety of sectors including car rental offices. (Shutterstock)
Updated 25 June 2018
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Car rental firms to offer jobs to Saudi women

  • Female drivers will boost the Kingdom’s auto industry, says car rental company executive.
  • The most significant change in the car rental market is that new company branches will be opened in universities, government departments and institutions.

JEDDAH: Women drivers will bring about a huge economic recovery and bring down unemployment among Saudi women, as new jobs will be created that were not previously available to women — in the traffic department and car rental offices, for example.

The most significant change in the car rental market is that new company branches will be opened in universities, government departments and institutions. This will accordingly help to reduce the number of drivers in the Kingdom.

When Arab News toured car rental offices in Jeddah, many of them said they would have a training program to enable male and female Saudis to work in this field.

Salaries in car rental companies start at SR4,500 ($1,200). Nawaf Alghahtani, 25, a Saudi worker in car rental, said he started his job in a rental office three months ago and earned about SR5,000.

Fahad Taher, a customer services employee at another rental outlet, told Arab News: “Allowing women to rent cars will not change our pricing policies as we try to keep the prices the same, even during holidays and on special occasions.”

Khalid Zahid, CEO of Budget Saudi Arabia, said there are no restrictions on women availing the services of car rental companies.

He said the only requirement to rent a car in the Kingdom is to have a valid Iqama or national ID and a valid Saudi driver’s license in case of a resident or national. However, valid GCC driver’s licenses are also acceptable.

In Saudi Arabia, you must be over 21 to rent affordable car brands and over 23 and above for luxurious brands. The same thing goes for women drivers, said Hattan Madani, a Budget customer service employee.

He also told Arab News that training for employees before they start work in this sector is not limited to men. “Training does not differentiate between male or female. They are both eligible to take the courses, which include video and scenarios showcasing all the steps and ways to deal with the job.”

There is an e-training program called Doroob which one can use to get trained any time and from anywhere. It offers accredited certificates that are officially recognized by top employers in the Kingdom. These certificates also give their holders priority when applying for a job.

It is an integrated program sponsored by the Human Resources Development Fund. 

The CEO of Budget Saudi Arabia is optimistic about the effect women drivers will have in the Kingdom’s car industry.

“Today almost half the population consists of women. Let’s say 5 percent starts driving. Some of them will buy and some will rent cars. In the end, the outcome will be positive, and this will be better reflected in 2019,” he explained.

Zahid believes there will be a positive effect on Saudi households and the business sector. “When a company wants to rent cars for their sales employees, they rent them in large quantities. These cars are used for staff transportation,” said the Budget CEO, adding that women drivers will increase the request for these cars.

Budget has women working in various locations, mostly hotels around the Kingdom. Zahid said although hotels have pleasant environments they are bombarded by people of different attitudes and backgrounds, so it is truly a test for their female staff. 

“We are also starting to inject our car sales showrooms and various parts of our operations with women across the Kingdom. This will help a lot, especially when women enter showrooms to buy cars or rent them,” said Zahid, because this will result in smoother transactions.

The Budget CEO believes that women driving in the Kingdom will also increase demand for their “At your doorstep” service where customers can order a car and it will be delivered to their door in three hours.

He said he truly believes that women obtaining a driving license will help economically. He explained that the income of the household would stay within the household. Income spent on transportation for drivers and taxis will go back into the household, and the money will stay within the economy. Women will be able to buy and rent cars.

This step will also benefit by creating more jobs for women within the car industry, such as working as taxi drivers and in car showrooms. “So it is not just about women driving but rather how the economy will benefit from it,” the Budget CEO concluded. 


How Saudi women are getting ahead of men as STEM graduates

Dr. Fatima Alakeel, cybersecurity expert. (AN photo)
Updated 20 March 2019
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How Saudi women are getting ahead of men as STEM graduates

  • ‘Securing a job after the degree remains the challenge,’ says Dr. Fatema Alakeel of King Saud University in Riyadh
  • ‘Saudi women are ambitious,’ says one graduate. ‘We are acquiring high degrees and seeking successful careers’

DUBAI: More and more girls in Saudi Arabia are opting for an education in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), and now the challenge is finding them employment, said Dr. Fatima Alakeel, a cybersecurity expert and faculty member at King Saud University (KSU) in Riyadh.
“In the Kingdom, STEM-related jobs are limited at the moment, as the economy is primarily oil-based and there are few technical jobs available,” said Alakeel, who is also the founder and CEO of the non-profit Confidentiality, Integrity & Availability Group (CIAG), which focuses on information security training and research in Riyadh.
According to a government report on the labor market situation in the third quarter of 2018, more than 30 percent of Saudi women aged between 15 and 65 are unemployed.
Among them, the highest rate of unemployment is among 20-24-year-olds (more than 70 percent) and among 25-29-year-olds (55 percent).
According to the report, there are 923,504 Saudi jobseekers, of whom 765,378 are women (82.2 percent).
“We have more girls in STEM education compared to Western countries,” said Alakeel, who completed her doctoral degree in computer science in the UK at the University of Southampton in 2017.
According to a report prepared by the Saudi Education Ministry, girls accounted for 57 percent of undergraduates for the year 2015-2016 in the Kingdom.
That same year, women outnumbered men in graduating with a bachelor’s in biology, information technology (IT), mathematics and statistics, and physics.
According to a survey Alakeel recently conducted on social media, “almost 80 percent of (Saudi) girls were keen to study STEM, but securing a job after the degree remains the challenge,” she said.
Maha Al-Taleb, 22, graduated earlier this year with a degree in technology from KSU, specializing in IT networks and security.
“It’s common for girls in the Kingdom to opt for STEM education,” said Al-Taleb, who now works in a public sector company in Riyadh as a junior information security analyst.
“Saudi women are ambitious. We’re acquiring high degrees and seeking successful careers. I don’t know why the world assumes that Saudi women are a backward tribal species who have no say in these matters. This entire perception is flawed.”
Al-Taleb got a job offer immediately after university, but realizes that not all her peers are as fortunate. Women “are facing problems in securing jobs, not because companies don’t want to hire us, but because employment for Saudi youths is a major challenge,” she said.
“In today’s Saudi Arabia, parents are encouraging their daughters to get a degree not just in the Kingdom; they also want them to go to Western universities. It has become a common phenomenon. Things have changed. Women are a crucial part of the nation’s development process.”
Not all women graduating in the Kingdom are as lucky, among them Razan Al-Qahtani. “It has been several months since I graduated, yet I haven’t been able to find a job. It has been a struggle so far,” said the 25-year-old IT graduate. “We have more talented and qualified girls, especially in the field of technology, but there are few jobs available. It’s a difficult situation, but we’re hopeful things will change very soon.”
Al-Qahtani expressed confidence that the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform plan will bring opportunities for qualified Saudis.
As part of Vision 2030, the government has committed to raise employment among Saudi women.
Alakeel said the government is working hard to find a solution, and it is only a matter of time until more such jobs are on offer.
“As per Vision 2030, there will be more jobs, including technical jobs, available in the country. Once we have more jobs, women will eventually get their due share,” she added. According to Alakeel, female empowerment and promotion to leading roles have made huge progress in Saudi Arabia, and this may affect existing STEM job opportunities.
“We’re glad to see Her Royal Highness Princess Reema bint Bandar Al-Saud becoming the first female ambassador of the country. It only suggests change is on the way,” Alakeel said.
Al-Taleb expressed pride in the way her parents have supported her, saying: “My father isn’t educated and my mother has basic literacy, but both provided me with the education I desired. They want their daughters to be as successful as their sons.”
Like women in any country, the transition from university to the workplace is not always easy, even for young Saudi women with technology degrees. Yet they are not losing hope.
“We realize these are difficult times in terms of employment, especially in technology-related fields, but things will change,” Al-Taleb said. “Saudi women will soon be ruling the fields of STEM all over the country.”