Communities, networks key to Saudi women’s progress, experts say

Communities, networks key to Saudi women’s progress, experts say
Emon Shakoor is a neuroscience researcher turned technology entrepreneur and startup catalyst. (Supplied)
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Updated 08 March 2021

Communities, networks key to Saudi women’s progress, experts say

Communities, networks key to Saudi women’s progress, experts say
  • Vision 2030 aims to increase the contribution of SMEs to Saudi gross domestic product from 20 to 35 percent
  • Today in Saudi, according to Ministry of Education numbers, more women are graduating from tech-related majors than men

JEDDAH: A determination to strengthen the contribution of Saudi women to society and the economy is one of many bold ambitions outlined in the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.

Women’s economic empowerment is critical to achieving gender equality and strengthening sustainable development cooperation. It includes women’s ability to participate equally in existing markets, having a louder voice and more agency, and their meaningful involvement in economic decision-making at all levels.

This can be achieved by ensuring women’s financial inclusion, technical inclusion, entrepreneurship empowerment and participation in decision-making.

For the second year in a row, Saudi Arabia has made notable progress in advancing women’s economic opportunities, according to the World Bank Group’s latest report.

The Women, Business, and the Law 2021 report placed Saudi Arabia among the leading countries in the Middle East and North African region — scoring 80 points out of 100, up from the 70.6 achieved in 2020.

According to the report, Saudi Arabia has progressed in reducing wage inequality, eliminated restrictions on female employment in jobs previously deemed too dangerous, and lifted bans on women working night shifts.

As science progresses at a rapid pace, access to new technology and the ability to create and shape technological change is increasingly becoming a fundamental tool to support women’s empowerment and improve their lives, especially in a post-pandemic world.

During a roundtable discussion in July last year spawned by Women20 (W20), an official engagement group of the G20, speakers noted that only 48 percent of women are accustomed to the latest technology, while 60 percent of Saudi women use social media platforms without producing any digital content. This confirms that women are users of technology, not producers, they said.

“Improving digital and cybersecurity literacy among women contributes to their economic empowerment, since they will be needed in all sectors locally, regionally and internationally,” Dalal Al-Harthi, a cybersecurity expert, told Arab News.

FASTFACT

The Women, Business, and the Law 2021 report placed Saudi Arabia among the leading countries in the Middle East and North African region.

Al-Harthi is a faculty member at Shaqra University and resident engineer at the US-based cybersecurity company Palo Alto Networks. Throughout the last three years, she has worked in three positions across different institutions in the US as the only female engineer in her teams.

However, she considered those situations as motivation to prove herself, as opposed to a challenge.

“Males historically and currently dominate the cybersecurity field. A recent report by Cybersecurity Ventures states that women make up 20 percent of the cybersecurity workforce. Because of this massive shortage of women among cybersecurity professionals today, I became deeply passionate about raising this percentage to 50 percent,” Al-Harthi said.




Digital empowerment of women allows them to seize the opportunities provided by evolving global markets. (Social media)

“The cybersecurity field is the hottest cake in the market, and in high demand around the world,” she added.

Therefore, the digital empowerment of women and girls by upgrading their knowledge and skills allows them to seize the opportunities provided by evolving global markets. Moreover, attracting more women to the tech sector is essential to unlocking the potential of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and ensuring technology is developed from a balanced perspective.

Al-Harthi advises women who want to venture into cybersecurity to improve their technical skills, obtain professional certificates, look into cybersecurity job descriptions to grasp the bigger picture, and work on their communication, research and writing skills.

According to the undersecretary for women’s empowerment at the Saudi Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development, Hind Al-Zahid, having women in prominent leadership positions will result in greater numbers of women in senior roles in the labor market.

Saudi Arabia has increasingly encouraged women’s leadership in recent years. The most notable event came earlier this year, which saw the appointment of Iman Al-Mutairi as executive director for destination branding at the Soudah Development Co., a new brand fully owned by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund.

Several initiatives have also been launched to prepare women for leading positions in the public sector, such as the QIYADYAT platform and the leadership academy at the Public Administration Institute.

As it stands, 2.5 percent of leading positions in the Kingdom’s public sector are occupied by women, but in the private sector, the figure rises to 25 percent.

In a recent interview with Al-Arabiya TV, Al-Zahid said that the gap between the public and private sectors is due to the lack of a talent pool that helps include more women in the public sector, as many women work in the education and health industries.

On the bright side, the latest numbers show that women’s participation in the labor market has increased to 31 percent, exceeding the government’s goal of 25 percent by 2025.

Dr. Albandari Al-Rabiah, director of the Studies and Information Department at the Public Administration Institute, said that studies have shown that a balanced representation of women leaders across different levels of an organization leads to a higher level of performance and innovation, and therefore increased revenues and a distinct competitive advantage.

Dr. Al-Rabiah also conducted a field study to evaluate the experience of women leaders in the Kingdom’s public sector.

“The results of the study demonstrated the high sense of commitment among Saudi women toward their responsibilities and role in society, as well as their relentless pursuit to prove themselves, in addition to a number of challenges that face women on the ascending ladder to leadership positions,” she said.

Two years after the study was published, Al-Rabiah insists that the Kingdom is witnessing a decisive turning point for women and their journey towards leadership positions.

The unemployment rate among women in Saudi Arabia is 31 percent, while among men, it stands at 9 percent. Therefore, women have been encouraged to get involved in entrepreneurship to expand their participation in the labor market, fuel economic growth and create more jobs for their female peers.

Vision 2030 aims to increase the contribution of SMEs to Saudi gross domestic product from 20 to 35 percent.

Emon Shakoor, an ex-neuroscience researcher and now technology entrepreneur who started her journey in her early 20s, launched Saudi Arabia’s first tech-inclusion and female-focused accelerator to help more women venture into the field.

“Today in Saudi, according to Ministry of Education numbers, more women are graduating from tech-related majors than men, however after graduation they do not continue working in the industry,” said Shakoor, CEO and founder of Blossom Accelerator.

She said that the way to solve this problem is for women to have more allies, mentors, and networks, because that is the only way that women graduating from the field can stay and strive in the industry.

Shakoor added that entrepreneurship is a male-dominated sector, and that although female entrepreneurs have become more and more noticeable, the most successful and biggest companies in the Kingdom were founded by men.

That is the case not because men are better than women, but because men have their well-established communities, she said.

In her own life, Shakoor said that she did not always receive enough social trust and respect as an ambitious and successful entrepreneur.

“I overcame the situation by continuing to work and focusing on my customers, who are other women founders,” she said.

“People underestimate you at the beginning, but focus on the customer, and you’ll eventually succeed.”

 


Saudi Arabia announces eight more COVID-19 deaths

Saudi Arabia announces eight more COVID-19 deaths
Updated 3 min 53 sec ago

Saudi Arabia announces eight more COVID-19 deaths

Saudi Arabia announces eight more COVID-19 deaths
  • The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom has increased to 385,441
  • A total of 6,781 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia announced eight deaths from COVID-19 and 929 new infections on Wednesday.
Of the new cases, 443 were recorded in Riyadh, 172 in Makkah, 130 in the the Eastern Province, 30 in Madinah, 26 in Asir, 24 in Tabuk, 22 in Jazan, 22 in Hail, 11 in the Northern Borders region,11 in Najran and six in Al-Jouf.
The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom increased to 385,441 after 806 more patients recovered from the virus.
A total of 6,781 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far.
Over 6.5 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Saudi Arabia to date.


King Salman offers Ramadan wishes, orders best services for pilgrims

King Salman offers Ramadan wishes, orders best services for pilgrims
Updated 14 April 2021

King Salman offers Ramadan wishes, orders best services for pilgrims

King Salman offers Ramadan wishes, orders best services for pilgrims

RIYADH: King Salman on Tuesday offered his best wishes to the Muslim world on the first day of the fasting month of Ramadan. 
The comments came as the king chaired the weekly government meeting virtually. 
He also instructed that pilgrims be given the best possible services during the holy month, which for a second year will be observed under strict protocols to help curtail the spread of the coronavirus. 


Saudi Culture Ministry issues guide to acquiring national artworks

Saudi Culture Ministry issues guide to acquiring national artworks
Updated 14 April 2021

Saudi Culture Ministry issues guide to acquiring national artworks

Saudi Culture Ministry issues guide to acquiring national artworks
  • The guide consists of six main chapters, and also includes methods for maintaining and restoring art

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Culture has published a guide for government agencies and institutions wishing to acquire artworks created by Saudi artists.
The guide falls under the framework of a royal order directing government agencies to acquire national artworks and handicraft products for their headquarters, according to a directory prepared by the culture ministry.
Minister of Culture Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan said the order, which was based on directives from Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, provided the greatest support for the visual arts sector in the Kingdom, and for the nation’s artists.
He said the guide provides basic information, including the processes of procurement, acquisition, art collections, restoration, maintenance and preserving the integrity of artworks, in a way that guarantees the creation of a national art market and fosters relations between the artist and the buyer.
The guide consists of six main chapters, and also includes explanations on the importance of respecting intellectual property rights.


Nazaha oversees 176 arrests in Saudi corruption crackdown

Nazaha oversees 176 arrests in Saudi corruption crackdown
Nazaha has continued to ramp up crackdowns on corruption, fraud and bribery in Saudi Arabia. (SPA)
Updated 13 April 2021

Nazaha oversees 176 arrests in Saudi corruption crackdown

Nazaha oversees 176 arrests in Saudi corruption crackdown
  • The pair had opened commercial records and bank accounts before handing them to expatriates in return for a monthly fee

JEDDAH: Saudi authorities have arrested 176 citizens and expatriates, including government ministry employees, for alleged involvement in corruption.
In a statement, the Oversight and Anti-Corruption Authority (Nazaha) said those arrested include employees of the defense, interior, national guard, finance, health, justice, municipal, rural affairs and housing, education, transport, information, and human resources and social development ministries, as well as workers from Saudi Customs, the General Authority of the Red Crescent and the National Water Co.
Charges leveled against the employees cover bribery, abuse of power and forgery charges. They were arrested in 971 inspection raids carried out by Nazaha teams in the last month.
Arrests were made following investigations into 700 people suspected of corruption. Nazaha said that legal procedures are being completed before the accused are referred to courts.
The authority called on Saudis to report suspicious activities involving financial or administrative corruption by contacting the toll free number 980, the email @nazaha.gov.sa or the fax number 0114420057.
Nazaha has continued to ramp up crackdowns on corruption, fraud and bribery in the Kingdom over the past year. Recent activities include the arrest of 65 Saudis and expats in February this year, 48 of whom were government employees from seven different ministries. Charges included bribery, abuse of influence and power, as well as fraud and forgery.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Arrests were made following investigations into 700 people suspected of corruption.

• Charges leveled against those arrested include bribery, abuse of power and forgery charges.

“Nazaha is standing up against financial and administrative corruption,” Majed Garoub, a lawyer, told Arab News. “The crackdown on corruption is a reality and we’re witnessing its success every time we hear the good news of these arrests.”
In March, two Saudi citizens were sentenced to 28 years in jail and fined up to $3.47 million after an investigation exposed their roles in an organized crime gang that laundered money overseas.
The pair had opened commercial records and bank accounts before handing them to expatriates in return for a monthly fee. They allowed expats to invest in their commercial unit, use their bank accounts, and deposit money they had obtained illegally and transfer it abroad.
In November last year, Nazaha arrested 22 people after seizing more than SR600 million ($160 million) in what was described as “the largest case of corruption in the Kingdom.”

 


Worshippers flock to Grand Mosque in Makkah as dawn breaks on Ramadan

Worshippers flock to Grand Mosque in Makkah as dawn breaks on Ramadan
Updated 14 April 2021

Worshippers flock to Grand Mosque in Makkah as dawn breaks on Ramadan

Worshippers flock to Grand Mosque in Makkah as dawn breaks on Ramadan
  • Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic fails to dampen the true spirit of the holy month

JEDDAH: The holy month of Ramadan is a favorite of Muslims as they focus on their inner well-being, faith and connect with their roots, religion and family.

Around the world, people prepare for the month with great passion. The most common preparation begins with grocery shopping, subtle decorations in homes and quiet corners designated for prayers, among other things.
Muslim residents of Saudi Arabia highlight their joy by sharing meals with friends and family. However, because of coronavirus health restrictions, they will not be able to enjoy its full effect this year.
Taking lessons learned from an isolated Ramadan last year, people in Saudi Arabia are instead focusing on self-care before to achieve the holy month’s main purpose: Growing closer to God through prayer and devotion.
However, people do miss the usual festivities during the month due to the pandemic. Under normal circumstances, this month generally witnesses hustle and bustle not only in markets and eateries but mosques also become full of worshippers who want to utilize this month effectively for their spiritual growth.   

Ramadan makes social distancing a bit harder to bear since it’s the month in which we feel like sharing meals the most.

Hamna Khan

This is the second Ramadan since the beginning of the pandemic. Due to the health precautions, the situation is no longer the same, as people have to be very careful.  
Hamna Khan, a Pakistani expat living in Jeddah, told Arab News: “Ramadan makes social distancing a bit harder to bear since it’s the month in which we feel like sharing meals the most.”
Palestinian student Rahaf Burchalli saw the humor of the situation, saying that her family will be putting hand sanitizer on the dining table as an appropriate addition.
For many Muslims, the month of Ramadan means going back to religious habits, such as praying on time, dedicating a part of the day to reciting the Qur’an and doing as many good deeds as possible.
Although the experience in 2021 will be different, given the nationwide curfew in place this time last year, restrictions still remain to curb the spread of coronavirus, leaving many people with more time on their hands.

It is important to organize oneself, as the routine in Ramadan is different than the rest of the year.

Rahaf Burchalli

People are planning different activities and chores to use this spare time efficiently by engaging in productive activities.
For Khan, the extra time will be spent decluttering her house for Ramadan so that it becomes easier to clean for Eid. “Since the month means a lot of time spent with food, I make sure that preparations are done ahead of time before Ramadan.”
Burchalli, on the other hand, said that her pre-Ramadan preparations are psychological, rather than physical. “The heart begins to get ready and feels reassured for the beginning of my favorite month of the year. The decoration comes after that and I think that it is essential to enter the atmosphere of Ramadan.”
She added that her preparations also involve spiritual practices such as “organizing my sleep, eating and worship times.
“It is important to organize oneself, as the routine in Ramadan is different than the rest of the year,” she said.