JEDDAH: Technology is an important tool to support the empowerment of women and is the key to improving their lives — this was the focus of a Saudi roundtable discussion spawned by Women20 (W20), an official engagement group of the G20.
Organized to coincide with Al-Nahda Foundation becoming president of Saudi Arabia 2020 Women (W20), the third forum of the National Dialogues on Saudi Women was opened by W20 chair Dr. Thoraya Obaid.
Dr. Obaid said: “We managed to consolidate important relations and friendships with representatives of the G20 countries, but the most important thing for us is national dialogue, as we will complete our mission at the group by the end of this year and the only thing will remain is the national work.”
The virtual meeting discussed Saudi Arabia’s strategic plan to empower women and the current challenges and opportunities in the light of COVID-19. Panelists discussed the current situation of Saudi women in the light of the W20’s areas of interest for this year.
These included women’s financial inclusion, technical inclusion, entrepreneurship empowerment, and women’s participation in decision making.
The role of technology, especially its significantly enhanced role during the COVID-19 crisis, was a major focus, looking at women’s use of technology and their contribution to the production of technical programs.
“Only 48 percent of women are adapted to technology,” said Deema Al-Yahya, innovation and e-commerce consultant and founder of Women Spark initiative.
“Women are users of technology rather than producers; 60 percent of Saudi women are using social media platforms without producing any digital content,” Al-Yahaya said. “We need to shift women’s role from a user to a producer. It is something several governmental entities are working on to give women productive opportunities, such as Monshaat.”
Al-Yahya said that even skilled women with the right talent and technical experience do not always have equal opportunities, especially those who reside in remote areas or in cities where there is a lack of suitable opportunities to their qualifications.
“Established companies are outsourcing their services to other Arab countries while there are many talented women in the Kingdom,” she said. “However, with this crisis, and as many services shift online, these women can find better opportunities and they have to invest in them.”
The various discussions included the empowerment of women who are disadvantaged, who do not have a formal job, or who are owners of small and medium businesses.
Moreover, entrepreneurship opportunities, inclusion in work, including positive discrimination in favor of women, labor rights, vacations, and other issues related to women such unpaid caring roles by women were also discussed.
“The COVID-19 crisis has brought with it huge potential entrepreneurship ideas which are mainly technological, you only need to find a problem that hasn’t been properly solved,” said Amal Dokhan, CEO Global Entrepreneurship Network GEN Saudi. “Women have an attention to details by intuition and this is exactly what is needed today.”
“We do not want women to limit their aspirations in entrepreneurship to specific sectors. There are many great opportunities available today for women, they only need to think out of the box,” she said. “There are endless untouched digital opportunities, especially the services that are targeting women.”