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.”

 


The Future of AlUla Depends on a Sustainable Growth Model

The Future of AlUla Depends on a Sustainable Growth Model
Updated 1 min 25 sec ago

The Future of AlUla Depends on a Sustainable Growth Model

The Future of AlUla Depends on a Sustainable Growth Model
  • First AlUla “Crossroads” panel concludes that Saudi Arabia’s accelerated aims to diversify the economy must marry the nation’s heritage with sustainable business models
  • The panel sought to address how the Kingdom could achieve its divergent goals of decarbonizing and diversifying the economy and creating a wider scope of employment opportunities

Saudi Arabia’s economy has long been defined by fossil fuels. However, the Gulf nation, which has some of the largest oil reserves in the world, has made the decisive step towards a sustainable future. In a bid to diversify its economy, Saudi Arabia is placing increased emphasis on integrated sustainability — which incorporates social, economic, and environmental dimensions and is grounded in principles of a circular economy — is at the forefront of all major developments in the Kingdom.

This includes AlUla, the ancient valley in Saudi Arabia’s Madinah region that covers a landmass of over 22,500 square meters and is being transformed into an “open-air museum” to showcase its 200,000 years of human history to the world under the Journey Through Time Masterplan, the vision for AlUla unveiled by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, chairman of the board of directors of the Royal Commission for AlUla.

At the core of the masterplan, which was unveiled on April 7, is integrated sustainability, the subject of the first panel staged by the Royal Commission of AlUla’s as part of its “Crossroads: Intellectual Panel Program.”

Aptly titled “At the Crossroads: People and Planet: Can AlUla Unlock a Sustainable Future?” Moderated by Dr. Maliha Hashmi, executive director of health, wellbeing and biotech at NEOM, Saudi Arabia’s planned cross-border city in the Tabuk region, panelists included businessman and entrepreneur Alejandro Agag; former Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi; architect and leader in sustainable design William McDonough; James Hardcastle, director of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Green List; Carlos Duarte, a biological oceanographer; and Gérard Mestrallet, executive chairman of Afalula, the French agency for Alula Development.

The panel sought to address how the Kingdom could achieve its divergent goals of decarbonizing and diversifying the economy, creating a wider scope of employment opportunities, and bolstering Saudi Arabia’s social and economic contribution to the global community in the most efficient and sustainable way possible. For example, the Kingdom has recently taken initial steps to reduce Saudi Arabia’s emissions by planting 10 billion trees and generating half its energy from renewables by 2030.

“They all have relationships that interact, and the important thing is to see this whole set of issues as a kind of ecosystems and organisms,” said McDonough, adding: “Everything kind of affects everything else and the benefits are tremendous. The recognition of multiplier effects is a key part of it, we find the economics work really beautifully and soon as you start to realize there are benefits coming from lots of directions.”

Sustainability is a vital part of any business, declared Agag, the CEO of Formula E, the single-seater motorsport championship that only uses electric cars. His business and entertainment model continues to prioritize sustainability.

“I think now the difficulty is not to make sustainability and business compatible, the difficulty is to do a business without having a sustainability angle in your business,” he said. “When we started Formula E 10 years ago and launched the first race in Beijing in 2014, everybody thought that Formula E would crash and burn.”

He added: “All the motorsport world had this consensus. My old-time partner and at the time CEO of Formula 1 Bernie Ecclestone told me that an electrical championship would never make it to the first race. But we did.”

Agag explained how the championship now has support from world’s major manufacturers. It has strong revenues, big sponsors, and continuous growth — all because it promotes electric cars. “And we did it at a time in 2014 when electric cars were not as available as now,” added Agag.

How does a nation push social and economic sustainability, particularly in respect to resurrecting ancient sites such as AlUla? Renzi, who contributed greatly to the revitalization of the sites of Pompei and Matera in Italy, transforming them into vibrant cultural and touristic destinations, agreed with Agag, stating that it is “impossible to do business without sustainability.”

He said: “The same is true for culture and tourism,” adding: “Pompei and Matera are very exciting examples. Pompei was one of the most amazing places around the world but in the last 20 to 50 years, Italy lost the momentum to invest in a new narrative for Pompei. Our government decided to involve the EU and Pompei pre-pandemic achieved its maximum number of visitors.”

The same is true for Matera, a rocky outcrop in the region of Basilicata, in southern Italy, which now houses museums such as the Casa Grotta di Vico Solitario, he continued.

“Matera became the capital of culture in Europe after a long period in which people thought of Matera as a place of ruin and disaster,” explained Renzi.

“What is the strategy? What is the secret?” posed Renzi. “In my view it is exactly what has been decided by the Royal Commission for AlUla: Use a great place, one of the capitals of the past, and transform it into a place for the future.”

What can we draw from 200,000 years of human history at AlUla to reimagine sustainability, challenge conventional wisdom, and draw inspiration from ancient ingenuity? Moreover, Hashmi posed, how does Saudi Arabia bring communities on board and balance the interests of protecting natural landscapes against urbanization and the needs of growing communities?

Hardcastle agreed that business cannot be done today without a sustainable approach.

“You cannot do nature conservation and protection without communities from that place,” he said. “With IUCN we’ve set up alongside our global members 160 countries and 20,000 scientists who have come together and discussed what makes nature conservation effective, especially in areas like Sharaan, AlUla, and other places in Saudi Arabia.

“The overwhelming response is that the places that are effective are where you have had full engagement from the outset with the communities who live and breathe the air who do not see these places as wild but see them as part of their heritage.”

As Saudi Arabia moves into its next chapter of growth, what this panel underlined was the crucial balance that must be struck between maintaining the country’s heritage and ancient past, using its local communities and employing sustainable practices in all areas of business and development.


Saudi Arabia confirms 11 COVID-19 deaths, 1,055 new cases

Saudi Arabia confirms 11 COVID-19 deaths, 1,055 new cases
Updated 34 min 46 sec ago

Saudi Arabia confirms 11 COVID-19 deaths, 1,055 new cases

Saudi Arabia confirms 11 COVID-19 deaths, 1,055 new cases
  • The Kingdom said 1,086 patients recovered in past 24 hours
  • The highest number of cases were recorded in Riyadh with 468

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia recorded 11 new COVID-19 related deaths on Monday, raising the total number of fatalities to 6,869.
The Ministry of Health confirmed 1,055 new confirmed cases reported in the Kingdom in the previous 24 hours, meaning 409,093 people have now contracted the disease. 
Of the total number of cases, 9,776 remain active and 1,182 in critical condition.

According to the ministry, the highest number of cases were recorded in the capital Riyadh with 468, followed by Makkah with 206, the Eastern Province with 166, Madinah recorded 41, and Asir confirmed 35 cases.
The ministry also announced that 1,086 patients had recovered from COVID-19, bringing the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 392,448.
The ministry renewed its call on the public to adhere to the measures and abide by instructions.
The coronavirus pandemic has affected over 144 million people globally and the death toll has reached around 3.07 million.


King Salman leads Saudi delegation at US-hosted leaders’ virtual summit on climate

King Salman speaking at the virtual summit. (Photo: Bandar Galoud)
King Salman speaking at the virtual summit. (Photo: Bandar Galoud)
Updated 4 min 28 sec ago

King Salman leads Saudi delegation at US-hosted leaders’ virtual summit on climate

King Salman speaking at the virtual summit. (Photo: Bandar Galoud)
  • The King’s participation reaffirms Saudi’s commitment to face climate change
  • The virtual summit will be live streamed for public viewing

DUBAI: King Salman led Saudi Arabia’s delegation to the virtual Leaders Summit on Climate being hosted by the US on Thursday.

American President Joe Biden’s invitation to 40 world leaders for climate talks, which happens on April 22 and 23, follows on his announcement shortly after his January inauguration that he would convene a leaders summit to galvanize efforts by the major economies to tackle the climate crisis.

The virtual summit will be live streamed for public viewing, the White House website has announced.

The King’s participation reaffirmed Saudi’s commitment to face climate change and is an extension of the earlier announced Green Saudi Arabia and Green Middle East initiatives, SPA reported.


New envoy to Sweden Einas Al-Shahwan becomes Saudi Arabia’s 3rd female ambassador

New envoy to Sweden Einas Al-Shahwan becomes Saudi Arabia’s 3rd female ambassador
Updated 22 April 2021

New envoy to Sweden Einas Al-Shahwan becomes Saudi Arabia’s 3rd female ambassador

New envoy to Sweden Einas Al-Shahwan becomes Saudi Arabia’s 3rd female ambassador

RIYADH: Einas Al-Shahwan, the Kingdom’s ambassador-designate to Sweden, has become Saudi Arabia’s 3rd female ambassador.
During a virtual meeting with King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Al-Shahwan was among a number of newly appointed ambassadors taking their oath.

The oaths were taken in front of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. (SPA)

The ceremony was also attended by Prince Faisal bin Farhan, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister.

Princess Reema bint Bandar bin Sultan became the first female ambassador when she was named the Saudi envoy to the US in 2019. 
In Oct. 2020, Amal Al-Mouallami was appointed as Saudi ambassador to Norway.

Below is a complete list of the new appointments:

The ambassador-designate to the Republic of Portugal, Prince Saud bin Abdul Mohsen bin Abdulaziz;
the ambassador-designate to Sweden Einas bint Ahmed Al-Shahwan;
the ambassador-designate to the Sultanate of Oman, Abdullah bin Saud Al-Anzi;
the ambassador-designate to the Czech Republic, Abdullah bin Mutaab Al-Rasheed;
the ambassador-designate to the Republic of Korea, Sami bin Muhammad Al-Sadhan;
the ambassador-designate to Turkmenistan, Saeed bin Othman Suwaied;
the ambassador-designate to the United Republic of the Comoros, Atallah bin Zayed bin Zayed;
the ambassador-designate to the Republic of Tajikistan Walid bin Abdulrahman al-Rashidan;
the ambassador-designate to the Kyrgyz Republic Ibrahim bin Radi Al-Radi;
the ambassador-designate to the Republic of Albania, Faisal bin Ghazi Hafzi;
the ambassador-designate to the Republic of Kenya Khalid bin Abdullah Al Salman;
the ambassador-designate to the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Faisal bin Talq Al-Baqami;
the ambassador-designate to the Republic of Cuba Faisal bin Falah Al-Harbi;
the ambassador-designate to the Republic of Chad Amer Bin Ali Al-Shahri;
the ambassador-designate to the Republic of Burkina Faso Fahd bin Abdulrahman Al-Dossary.

The oaths were taken in front of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. (SPA)

Saudi Cruise partners with MSC Cruises for winter season

Saudi Cruise partners with MSC Cruises for winter season
Updated 22 April 2021

Saudi Cruise partners with MSC Cruises for winter season

Saudi Cruise partners with MSC Cruises for winter season
  • The two companies are aiming to host 170,000 cruise guests this winter

JEDDAH: Saudi Cruise Co., owned by the Public Investment Fund, signed a joint agreement on Wednesday with MSC Cruises to launch its trips in the Red Sea and the Arabian Gulf during the upcoming winter season.
The announcement came during a meeting between Fawaz Farooqui, interim CEO of the Red Sea Cruise Co., and Pierfrancesco Vago, executive chairman of MSC Cruises, in Riyadh to sign the framework agreement to mark the start of the new partnership.
The two companies are aiming to host 170,000 cruise guests this winter.
Under the agreement, the MSC Magnifica will sail in the Red Sea from Jeddah on several seven-day trips from Nov. 13 through March 26. These trips will offer passengers access to a selection of ports and destinations on the coasts of the Red Sea. A weekly stopover will be included at Al-Wajh Port, which will connect passengers with AlUla, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The city of Jeddah is preparing for the first Formula 1 race hosted by the Kingdom on Dec. 5. These trips will provide an opportunity for some passengers of the MSC Magnifica to enjoy this global sports event in conjunction with their trips aboard the cruise.
MSC Magnifica will visit Dammam on a weekly basis from Dec. 2 through March 24, as part of its winter program in the Arabian Gulf. This trip will allow passengers to visit the Al-Ahsa Oasis, another UNESCO World Heritage site in the Kingdom, in addition to many exciting destinations and attractions in the region.
Farooqui said his company is keen to establish a long-term partnership, which will increase the number of cruises coming to Saudi Arabia in the future.
“The Kingdom has a lot to offer to its visitors, and the new cooperation will open the doors for travelers from all over the world to be among the first to have the opportunity to explore the rich Saudi heritage and hospitality,” he said.
Farooqui also said these trips will diversify the Saudi economy and increase the country’s GDP. In addition, the cruises will provide employment opportunities in the fields of port business, tourism and entertainment in the selected destinations to nearby communities.
By the year 2035, the company aims to create 50,000 direct and indirect job opportunities through the newly established cruise sector.
Vago said he wants his company to place Saudi Arabia on the global cruise map and make it a major tourist destination.
“We look forward to providing new experiences for tourists from within and outside the Kingdom, enabling them to discover the beauty of untouched islands, the picturesque beaches along the Saudi coasts, in addition to the historical and heritage sites scattered in many tourist destinations,” he said.