RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has been named as one of the world’s most transformative nations for advancing the economic role of women in society.
The World Bank’s annual “Women, Business, and the Law” report has ranked the Kingdom top among 190 countries for its progress in bringing about reforms related to female involvement in economic development and entrepreneurship.
And Saudi women in business have lauded the Vision 2030 strategy for being the key driver in helping them to realize their ambitions.
According to the bank’s figures for 2020, the Kingdom scored 70.6 out of 100 for progress achieved in the integration of women into the labor market. The report’s findings also placed the country first among Gulf states, and second in the Arab world for meeting the criteria.
The study revealed that Saudi Arabia made significant improvements on six out of eight indicators, namely mobility, workplace, marriage, childcare, entrepreneurship, and retirement, while maintaining its rank in the asset and property index.
The Kingdom made the biggest improvement globally in enacting reforms in six out of eight areas including women’s mobility, sexual harassment, retirement age, and economic activity.
On the number of women applying and being accepted into the Saudi workforce, Wadha Bin Zarah, the women empowerment director at the Saudi Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT), said: “The number has increased sufficiently with rapid growth. I believe that inclusiveness and diversity are two key factors to any successful entity.
“Among the G20 countries, Saudi Arabia has scored the highest growth in the participation of women in the workforce. Moreover, recruitment and human resources practices have never shown any discrimination against women when it comes to wages. One scale is used for all, and any benefits are calculated on merit, not sex.”
Zarah added: “Vision 2030 targets stated a specific quota for female participation in the workforce, which is to rise from 22 percent to 30 percent by 2030, with all sectors aligning their key performance indicators and goals to achieve that target.”
In addition, Saudi Arabia received a maximum score of 100 in the categories of mobility, workplace, entrepreneurship, and retirement. This achievement was due to changes in laws and regulations related to women aimed at enhancing their role in economic development and boosting the Kingdom’s competitiveness at regional and international levels.
Included among reforms highlighted in the Kingdom were the granting of travel rights for women aged over 21, the renewal of documents for all family members, unifying the retirement age between men and women and aligning them with the work system, and new rules to protect women from discrimination in workplace, especially with regard to employment and salaries.
Bayan Barry, partner account manager at Cisco Systems, said: “In 2006 we started with the first batch (of female employees) which was limited to two or three. That number has increased to around 44 women, working alongside 170 male colleagues, with different experiences from technical, sales, operations, project management and marketing.
“Currently, we are having a phase of internship within our company locally in Saudi and are proud to say that 12 female interns have shown their outstanding skills, including nine technical and three project managers.
“Women have been striving to expand their growth and show their value but in the past, it was not always been that easy. Many were lucky to have a supportive family, but chances were minimal,” added Barry.
“It is a moment of pride being in the right era, where we have the great support of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in promoting more women in the labor force and believing in us to show our utmost value.
Vision 2030 targets stated a specific quota for female participation in the workforce, which is to rise from 22 percent to 30 percent by 2030, with all sectors aligning their key performance indicators and goals to achieve that target.
Wadha Bin Zarah, Women empowerment director, Saudi Ministry of Communications and Information Technology
“Companies have started to race toward the national transformation aligning with Vision 2030. We are at a pace like never before of women empowerment, with many role models nationwide. We have started to penetrate more into segments we never thought of being in, while showing our impact and driving organizations onto more success.
“Percentage has shown how diversity has created new ideas and successful business results, and a high return on investments where inclusion and collaboration of both genders has been working hand in hand,” said Barry.
The bank’s report pointed out that Vision 2030 had contributed to boosting the implementation of these reforms, as it emphasized the importance of the role of women in ambitious plans to develop the country.
These have included the adoption of a range of initiatives and goals to support the empowerment of women, including raising the percentage of female participation in the labor market from 22 percent to 30 percent.
Nora Al-Kordi, a VAT manager with professional services firm Ernst & Young, said: “Every woman has the right to think that they are of value, to believe in themselves, and deserve every possible opportunity to achieve their dreams.
“Vision 2030 has turned dreams into reality, through empowering women and making what once was deemed impossible easy to reach through hard work and perseverance.”
The World Bank’s “Women, Business, and the Law” report is issued annually and aims at evaluating the level of gender discrimination in regulations related to economic development and entrepreneurship in 190 countries around the globe.