Tough origins shaped future of Saudi women in media

According to Al-Bakr, one of the main obstacles women had at the time was that they did not have the history or knowledge of what was acceptable to Saudi society, which left female presenters treading a fine line. (Saudi Media Forum)
Updated 04 December 2019

Tough origins shaped future of Saudi women in media

  • It is important that this generation knows our history, not just in the media but in all sectors

RIYADH: From writing under pen names to not knowing how to dress appropriately or work with male colleagues, three Saudi female journalists have recalled the difficulties their predecessors faced working in the media during a session titled “Saudi women in media: Presence and representation” at the Saudi Media Forum (SMF) on Tuesday.
“In the past, there were many concerns,” one of the panelists, writer Dr. Fawzia Al-Bakr, said.
According to Al-Bakr, one of the main obstacles women had at the time was that they did not have the history or knowledge of what was acceptable to Saudi society, which left female presenters treading a fine line.
However, said Al-Bakr, the government was always supportive of women in the media — King Faisal was the first to help them emerge in the field via radio in the 1970s.
There were supportive Saudi male journalists, too, who used to write under female pen names to help pave the way for their colleagues, such as Ahmed Siba’i who wrote in The Voice of Hjiaz publication under the pen name “Hijazi girl.”
Al-Bakr cited the progress of the country, from women being able to drive, to having passports issued and their active participation in the workforce. “We have a historical responsibility today,” she said.
Omaima Al-Khamis, a Saudi journalist, said: “Female media existence in Saudi Arabia was hidden. In the beginning, their presence wasn’t accepted but slowly it came to be.”
Small steps forward go a long way towards reaching goals of being active, equal members of the media world, she added.
Al-Khamis noted that the first news outlet to have a women’s section was Riyadh Newspaper in 1989 — a time when media/journalism was not an option for women in colleges and universities.
“Of course, there were difficulties and obstacles, but they continued forward and persevered,” she said, adding: “The challenges are real and big, but let’s move forward not just locally, or regionally, but globally.”
Saudi women in the western media are misrepresented, according to Maha Akeel, director of the information department at the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
“For the longest period, the Saudi woman’s voice was absent, so now we must speak. Vision 2030 has enabled us to. It’s difficult to change years of absence, but it must be done,” she said.
“There was always a gap. There would be someone to speak on a Saudi woman’s behalf in the past, but she was absent. That gave the western media (a chance) to create a narrative,” she added.
Most westerners, she said, assume that the identity of the Saudi woman is a burqa-clad female in black. While that is the case for some, it is not for all.
“Now we have support to empower and enable women,” she said.
She added that studying the journeys of pioneers is an essential part of learning a nation’s past and where its people have come from. “It is important that this generation knows our history, not just in the media but in all sectors.”


Facebook no longer among Glassdoor’s top 10 workplaces

Updated 11 December 2019

Facebook no longer among Glassdoor’s top 10 workplaces

  • The company received an overall rating of 4.4 out of 5, compared with 4.5 last year
  • Facebook is facing the heat over its handling of user data, misinformation campaigns on the platform
Facebook dropped to the 23rd spot in Glassdoor’s list of “Best Places to Work” in 2020 from the seventh it secured last year, amid heightened regulatory scrutiny of the world’s largest social network.
The company received an overall rating of 4.4 out of 5, compared with 4.5 last year, as employees gave relatively lower ratings for Facebook’s senior leadership and work-life balance.
“High profile projects can be extremely political and can really be dragged down by too many cooks in the kitchen. In a post-Cambridge Analytica world there are huge slowdowns in releasing new features or products ...,” according to one of the employee reviews on Glassdoor.
Facebook is facing the heat over its handling of user data, misinformation campaigns on the platform, as well as its plan for a global cryptocurrency called Libra.
Still, employee sentiment toward Facebook remained largely positive on better compensation and career opportunities, according to the Glassdoor report released late on Tuesday.
Software company HubSpot Inc. topped the 100 best workplaces list, while Alphabet Inc’s Google ranked number 11 and Apple Inc. 84.