Saudi fund leads the way on empowering women

The panel was part of Diversity Council conference in the MENA, which promotes women’s leadership role. (Supplied)
Updated 04 July 2019

Saudi fund leads the way on empowering women

  • The discussion panel was titled "A Business Priority: Empowering Women Leaders"
  • Noor Shabib is the first woman in a senior executive role in SIDF

DUBAI: The proportion of women in the Saudi Industrial Development Fund workforce has increased from none to 13 percent in the past two years, the assistant director general for strategic planning and business development said on Wednesday.

The fund hired women in various positions, including as directors and managers, and across different organizations.

“We are very proud of this, we have been very, very busy, honestly, with everything that is happening in the Kingdom with Vision 2030,” said Noor Shabib.

She was speaking during a panel discussion entitled “A Business Priority: Empowering Women Leaders” during the Diversity Council conference, in Dubai.

Shabib is the first female senior executive in the fund, "plan(s) to increase contributions relative to GDP in industry, mining, logistics, and energy to $320 billion by 2030."

“Our ambition… is to attract the top talent,” she said, adding that allowing women to join the workforce means companies have a wider selection to ensure they are hiring the best candidates.

Shabib believes there are certain prerequisites that make it easier to empower women, such as support of top leadership, taking chances on women leaders, and providing a supportive and safe environment for them to work and lead. “And, I think if I was to summarize everything… (it) is to empower, listen and adjust,” she said.

Shabib was joined by the founder of the international Diversity Council Tine Willumsen, UN Resident Coordinator for the UAE Dena Assaf, and du CEO Osman Sultan, who gave their own inputs on how to help women reach leadership positions in business.

One of the tools is creating alliances between companies. “Every company has their own initiatives, their own milestones, but, when you are there together, you are a force, and it also creates a bit of competition,” Willumsen said.

Diversity is not only about gender though — it is also about experience and age, she added. Willumsen advised companies to be more courageous and hire based on potential rather than experience.

Other important factors are mentorship and the development of leadership pipelines.

Sometimes having specific initiatives to improve gender inclusivity may push companies to fill out seats with the required population just to check a box, Assaf warned. It is important to create sustainable solutions and ways for younger women to be promoted, she added.

The leadership pipeline is a model that creates a clear and visible system that identifies possible candidates for succession as well as the required process for their development. On the other hand, Sultan said there is no set of rules that defines how to promote women into leadership roles, as it is specific for each company and situation.

“There is input and output there, of course you can establish rules,” he added.

Other panelists discussed the specific challenges of the inclusion of women in leadership roles in Saudi Arabia. One of the particular problems in the Kingdom is the mainstream local culture, according to Xavier Anglada, the managing director of Accenture. There is a top-down effort of inclusion in Saudi Arabia, as the rulers push for women to become part of the workforce, but “there is a cultural challenge,” Anglada added.

The prevailing culture still dictates that women must prioritize family life, marriage and children above having a career.

The Diversity Council started in Denmark, but the solutions that were applied there need to be culturally filtered to fit the region’s specific needs and requirements, Willumsen said.

In fact, the changes in the region may actually provide an opportunity for the West to learn, especially on the cultural points of disagreement. “We have to understand what the thinking is, because that type of thinking can actually bring us further,” Danish Ambassador to the Kingdom Ole Moesby said.

He added that, over the past two years, he has witnessed change at a great pace in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia wants global community to confront Aramco attackers

Updated 10 min 41 sec ago

Saudi Arabia wants global community to confront Aramco attackers

  • Saudi Arabia condemns Israel’s West Bank plans

RIYADH: The Cabinet on Tuesday strongly condemned the attacks on two Saudi Aramco facilities in Abqaiq and Khurais and reaffirmed the Kingdom’s ability to effectively deal with such attacks and their impact.

King Salman, who chaired the Cabinet session at Al-Salam Palace in Jeddah, thanked world leaders and regional and international organizations for expressing solidarity with the Kingdom.

The king said those cowardly attacks not only targeted vital installations of the Kingdom but also pose a threat to global oil supplies and threaten the stability of the global economy.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in a phone conversation with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, said the attack is a dangerous escalation not only against Saudi Arabia, but also the world.

Minister of Media Turki Al-Shabanah said in a statement to the Saudi Press Agency that the Cabinet called on the international community to confront the perpetrators of such barbaric attacks.

Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdul Aziz bin Salman briefed the Cabinet on the consequences of the attacks on Saudi Aramco oil facilities, which according to preliminary estimates suspended daily production of 5.7 million barrels of crude and 2 billion cubic feet per day production of gas and resulted in the decrease in production of ethane and natural gas liquids by 50 percent.

The Cabinet said these attacks are an extension of threats posed to the freedom of navigation.

The ministers vowed to defend the Kingdom’s vital assets and called on the international community to take tougher measures to prevent such attacks that threaten the region, security of oil supplies and the global economy.


• The Cabinet said the attacks on Saudi Aramco are an extension of threats posed to the freedom of navigation.

• Saudi Arabia considers Israeli prime minister’s West Bank plans a violation of international laws.

• The Cabinet calls on the international community to stand with the Palestinians.

The king also briefed the Cabinet on the telephone call made to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

He reiterated the Kingdom’s condemnation and rejection of the Israeli prime minister’s plans to annex lands from the occupied West Bank.

Al-Shabanah said the Cabinet considered this measure as null and void as a whole and a serious escalation against the Palestinian people and a flagrant violation of the charter of the UN, the principles of the international law, customs, treaties and charters. 

The Cabinet called on the international community to shoulder its legal, moral and humanitarian responsibilities to counter Israeli crimes and violations against the Palestinian people.

The Cabinet welcomed the decision taken at the extraordinary meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Member States held in Jeddah on the invitation of Saudi Arabia. The ministers praised the resolution’s emphasis on the centrality of the Palestinian cause and Jerusalem (Al-Quds) to the Islamic nation, absolute rejection and strong condemnation of the Israeli premier’s statement. 

The Cabinet also commended the statement issued by the Council of the Arab League calling on the international community, especially the Security Council, to shoulder its responsibilities to address Israeli actions, which are against the international laws.

The Cabinet authorized the finance minister and chairman of the board of directors of the General Authority for Zakat and Income — or his deputy — to sign a draft agreement between the Kingdom and Lebanon to avoid double taxation, on income taxes, prevent tax evasion.

The Cabinet also authorized the media minister — or his deputy — to discuss with the Ukrainian side a draft memorandum of understanding to cooperate in the field of media.

The Cabinet approved the appointment of Dr. Iman bint Habas Al-Mutairi as the CEO of the National Competitiveness Center.