Hoda Al-Helaissi grew up abroad as her father was an ambassador. Her first six years were spent in Rome and the next 17 were in London. She went to a French school from kindergarten to high school and attended a London university for her BA and a US university for her MA.
A mother of three, Al-Helaissi returned to live in the Kingdom in 1989. In 1990 she joined King Saud University as a lecturer at the College of Languages and Translation and took early retirement in 2012. She held various administrative posts, ending with a 13-year stint as vice chair at the college.
A few months after leaving King Saud University, she was nominated as one of the first 30 women to join the Shoura Council.
The term was for four years and she describes the learning process, meeting new people from different backgrounds, dealing with governance and ministry reports and traveling for meetings in foreign parliaments as “remarkable and impressive.”
“The fact that women became part of decision-making gave us a huge sense of duty but what struck me the most is the fact that, contrary to our expectations, the greatest advice and guidance we received during those first years were from our male colleagues,” she said.
In 2016 she was invited to serve another four-year term, along with nine women from the previous group.