How Saudi female labor force participation in e-commerce is gaining momentum

An Amazon KSA delivery van. (Supplied)
An Amazon KSA delivery van. (Supplied)
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Updated 16 May 2022

How Saudi female labor force participation in e-commerce is gaining momentum

How Saudi female labor force participation in e-commerce is gaining momentum
  • More Saudi women are joining the Kingdom’s workforce in a host of industries long dominated by men
  • Saudi reforms preventing gender discrimination are paying dividends as more women enter the labor market

DUBAI: With every passing year, more and more Saudi women are joining the Kingdom’s workforce in a host of industries long dominated by men, in large part thanks to reforms introduced under the Vision 2030 reform agenda.

The Vision 2030 reform agenda was launched in 2017 to help diversify the Saudi economy away from oil by tapping the energy and ideas of the Kingdom’s own young people — particularly its long-underrepresented women.

To this end, the Kingdom brought forward legislation that prevented gender discrimination in wages, occupations and working hours, and enabled women to incorporate businesses without obtaining prior consent. It also launched leadership training programs designed to boost the number of women in management roles.

Since the June 2020 launch of Amazon.sa, a dedicated online store for customers in Saudi Arabia, Amazon has been on a hiring spree, recruiting young Saudis to help facilitate and expand its delivery logistics network at a local level.




Eman Al-Enezi, Amazon KSA's first Saudi female delivery associate. (Supplied)

More recently, Amazon’s recruiters have been targeting Saudi women to manage operations in the Kingdom, in keeping with the government’s drive to Saudize its workforce and empower women.

The US multinational best known for its e-commerce platforms and more recently for its forays into cloud computing, digital streaming and artificial intelligence is today one of the world’s most valuable and widely recognized brands.

The Amazon empire was built on the back of a streamlined global logistics network, staffed by legions of employees based at distribution centers all over the world.

Amazon’s latest Saudi hiring scheme was launched in March this year to create opportunities for women in collaboration with the company’s delivery service partners.

“The main challenge is the idea that these jobs are only for men,” Eman Al-Enezi, Amazon KSA’s first Saudi female delivery associate, told Arab News. “I am proud to shatter this misconception and prove that women are equally as capable in this area.”

Amazon says that it drew significant interest among women eager to find work in the logistics sector when it first launched its recruitment program in Riyadh, Jeddah, Abha and Dammam last year.




A picker collects items from storage shelves to collates customers' orders at Amazon. (AFP/File Photo)

In response to this demand, according to the company, the program this year offers expanded opportunities for female delivery associates in Jazan, Al-Qassim, Makkah, Madinah and Al-Hofuf.

Al-Enezi says that the program has been very fulfilling and hopes more Saudi women will consider a career in logistics as a result.

“Since joining the company, I have been impressed by the efforts made to ensure my safety and comfort, and I appreciate the flexibility my role offers,” she said.

“Having been with Amazon for a while now, I have witnessed first-hand the positive impact of the company’s female delivery associate hiring program.

“My colleagues are settling in well to their new working environment and are happy to be part of a dynamic organization that puts their needs first.”

Amazon says that it is proud to have fulfilled its commitment to workplace diversity by creating jobs for Saudi women.




Saudi women mechanics at their repair and service garage in Jeddah. (Supplied)

“At Amazon, we have always firmly believed that diversity unlocks fresh perspectives,” Prashant Saran, director of operations for Amazon Middle East and North Africa, told Arab News.

“These, in turn, enable us to harness the power of innovation and find new ways to better serve the evolving needs of our customers. We are actively trying to remove barriers in an industry that has traditionally been seen as male dominated, not only in Saudi Arabia but across the globe.

“We are proud to partner with local businesses across the country to help level the playing field and create opportunities for talented women to build successful careers in a future-facing industry.

“This program is fully aligned with Amazon’s global commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, while also supporting the goals of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 national transformation strategy.”

According to Saran, Amazon works directly with its delivery service partners to provide training that is geared toward helping female delivery associates balance their individual requirements, using their feedback to tailor work to their lifestyles.

“This allows us to adapt the program to suit their needs in real time,” Saran said. “For instance, we have adopted a flexible approach to working hours, and the routes involved include deliveries to public areas, namely universities, hospitals, compounds and schools.”

Cutting-edge digital technologies and shop-floor automation have transformed the logistics industry in recent years, making careers in the sector accessible to people of all backgrounds and abilities.

FASTFACTS

- Amazon’s latest Saudi hiring scheme was launched in March this year to create opportunities for women.

- Established in 1994, the US firm today employs 1.6 million people at offices and distribution centers worldwide.

However, it is the evolution of social attitudes toward women in the workplace and changes in the legal framework of Middle Eastern societies that has unlocked their suppressed potential.

“Here in the MENA region, the past few years have brought unprecedented, transformative changes,” Saran said. “In today’s Saudi Arabia, women hold leadership positions and exercise the highest levels of authority across both business and government.”

Women’s empowerment has been high on the Saudi government’s agenda — with the private sector’s wholehearted endorsement. “By maintaining the momentum of these efforts, we can help accelerate the speed of change even further,” Saran said.

Indeed, while a diverse and inclusive culture is critical to recruiting and retaining women, Saran believes that it is equally important to create a clear path for them to advance and achieve their full potential.

“Increased flexibility, mentoring programs and leadership training can all contribute to ensuring women employees feel valued, engaged and motivated to stay on the path to leadership,” he said.

“With this goal in mind, it is important to nurture a corporate culture that is inclusive, just and equitable, and empowers Saudi women to successfully grow their careers. It is also vital for organizations to evaluate their boards and leadership teams for diversity.”

In line with the Saudi government’s priorities, Amazon says that it has launched its own inclusive leadership training programs to help ensure a gender-balanced talent pipeline.




The logistics industry has been transformed by cutting-edge technology and automation. (AFP/File Photo)

From recruitment and retention to nurturing leaders, the company says, efforts are being made to ensure a diverse and inclusive workplace where women feel comfortable and empowered to aspire to leadership roles.

“Seeing women succeed as leaders provides inspiration and strong motivation to other female employees,” Saran said. “These women, in turn, act as role models and mentors to nurture future female leaders within organizations.”

Amazon is not alone. Many other private-sector entities are prioritizing the promotion of women to leadership roles.

“What Amazon is doing is great and I predict we will see similar initiatives coming from the private sector this year, in support of the Saudi national transformation journey,” Mona Althagafi, Serco Middle East’s KSA country director, told Arab News.

“As leaders in this country, it is up to us to be the change. We cannot sit back and hope that gender equality happens. We need to be the driving force behind it.”

Like Amazon, Serco’s focus on diversity in its own talent acquisition and upskilling processes has boosted female representation among its executive team to 50 percent. Additionally, some 30 percent of its extended leadership team is represented by women.

“In 2020, we had no female representation in senior operational roles and decided to change that narrative,” Althagafi said.




Prashant Saran, director of operations for Amazon MENA. (Supplied)

These incentives appear to be working. A recent survey by Gartner, a US tech research and consulting firm, revealed that 2021 saw the highest proportion of women in the global supply chain workforce for the past five years.

These upward trends point to a bright future both for the Saudi e-commerce logistics industry and for the working lives of Saudi women.

“Amazon’s ambition to be a great place to work has reinforced our resolve to create the best possible working environments for women,” Saran said.

“Our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion resonates throughout the organization and we will continue to seek new ways to empower our female employees in Saudi Arabia and across the globe.”

For Al-Enezi, the fresh Amazon recruit, anything seems possible.

“We are grateful for this opportunity to break down barriers for Saudi women, which represents a significant step toward gender equality in the industry,” she said.

“The pace of change has been remarkable, and it’s inspiring to be part of it all.”


Riyadh to host first International Association for Energy Economics conference to be held in the Middle East

Riyadh to host first International Association for Energy Economics conference to be held in the Middle East
Updated 33 sec ago

Riyadh to host first International Association for Energy Economics conference to be held in the Middle East

Riyadh to host first International Association for Energy Economics conference to be held in the Middle East

RIYADH: Riyadh will host the International Association for Energy Economics in February 2022 in what will be a first for the Middle East.

Organized by the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center in cooperation with the Saudi Association for Energy Economics, the 44th iteration of the conference will be held from Feb. 4 to 8, the Saudi Press Agency reported. 

The theme of the conference is “Pathways to a clean, stable and sustainable energy future.” 

Global experts will discuss issues related to traditional and renewable energy, environmental challenges and stability of the energy market.


Aramco eyes IPO of its trading unit that could raise $30bn: Bloomberg

Aramco eyes IPO of its trading unit that could raise $30bn: Bloomberg
Updated 52 min 10 sec ago

Aramco eyes IPO of its trading unit that could raise $30bn: Bloomberg

Aramco eyes IPO of its trading unit that could raise $30bn: Bloomberg

RIYADH: Saudi oil giant Aramco is weighing an initial public offering of its trading arm that could potentially raise over $30 billion, slated to become one of the world’s biggest listings this year.

The move comes as the oil major is benefiting from oil prices rising to record levels in the wake of the Russian-Ukraine war. 

As it is considering the potential listing of Aramco Trading Co., the oil giant is working with banks including Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Morgan Stanley, Bloomberg reported citing people familiar with the matter. 

It could also sell a 30 percent stake in the division, which could make it one of the world’s largest IPOs in 2022, Bloomberg reported citing the unnamed people.

Most recently Saudi Aramco’s profit has surged 82 percent in the first quarter of 2022, beating the median of analysts’ expectations with the highest quarterly profit since it went public in 2019.


Breaking the news on the frontlines of war — Arizh Mukhammed on finding her ‘courage’

Breaking the news on the frontlines of war — Arizh Mukhammed on finding her ‘courage’
Updated 25 min 49 sec ago

Breaking the news on the frontlines of war — Arizh Mukhammed on finding her ‘courage’

Breaking the news on the frontlines of war — Arizh Mukhammed on finding her ‘courage’

The old adage that women have to work twice as hard for half the recognition clearly applies to war correspondent Arizh Mukhammed.

Working as a Sky News reporter based in Moscow, she has the demanding role of reporting from the frontlines of the Russia-Ukraine war.

The half-Russian, half-Syrian speaks three languages and holds a doctorate in pharmacology but describes her current role as one of the most challenging and rewarding of her life.

“Reporting about the war is an extraordinary, unpredictable event; I was shocked when it began, and I was the only one on the team who spoke Russian,” she said in an interview on the sidelines of the Arab Women’s Forum in Dubai.

“I hate wars and conflicts. I struggled in the areas controlled by Russian forces and was not allowed on the Ukrainian side. Like any human being, I had fears and wondered if what I was doing was useful and balanced. At the same time, it’s a new step in my career, and I have to move forward and rely on my skills. I had to find courage.”

 

 

Often, Mukhammed has time to do a single take with no room for error.

“I have to accurately portray the facts with no option of redoing a shot,” she said. “And I dislike the word ‘truth’ because each side has their version of ‘truth.’ It’s not a reporter’s job to provide analysis. My job is to report the facts on the ground, be neutral, and not express an opinion about one side being right and another wrong. War is complex.”

Mukhammed spoke on a panel alongside other esteemed war reporters at the Arab Women’s Forum, including Alhadath senior news anchor Christiane Baissary, about the trials and rewards of the job. Having other female role models helped them carve their path.


Read More: Arab Women Forum kicks off in Dubai


“I came to journalism from another field, but honestly, Shireen Abu Akleh is the one I knew from my childhood from her Al Jazeera days,” she said.

Akleh was a world-renowned journalist. Press circles across the world mourned her death.

“Nobody in the Arab World doesn’t know her. She was famous for her coverage in danger zones and for getting out. So, when I heard the sad news, everyone I knew, even friends and family not related to journalism, was deeply affected. She had a magnetic charisma. I like her language, her voice. I am so sad to lose an idol.”

While pursuing her doctorate in Moscow, Mukhammed yearned for the Arabic language and wanted to work in a field where she could better utilize her bilingual skills. She soon landed a career in media, translating between Russian and Arabic. She joined Sky News when they opened their Moscow Bureau.

“I prefer not to categorize myself as a war reporter. I am prepared to report on politics and business wherever the story carries me,” she said. “My advice to a young female reporter is to educate herself, always look at two sides of a story and assess if you are objective enough to report on a story.”


Dnata boosts Erbil operations with over $17m invested in advanced facilities

Dnata boosts Erbil operations with over $17m invested in advanced facilities
Updated 17 May 2022

Dnata boosts Erbil operations with over $17m invested in advanced facilities

Dnata boosts Erbil operations with over $17m invested in advanced facilities

RIYADH: Aviation and travel services provider dnata has announced a major expansion of its operations in Erbil, Iraq.

The UAE-based company opened a new cold chain facility and bus maintenance depot for its advanced fleets at Erbil International Airport, or EBL, which together represent a total investment of $3.5 million, the Dubai Government Media Office reported.

dnata also announced that it will invest $14 million and add 16,000 square meters of warehouse space to its infrastructure in Iraq.

The three new facilities will create up to 100 local jobs with dnata.

The new cold chain facility at dnata is capable of processing 10,000 tons of perishable materials annually.

It enables dnata's freight team to offer cold storage, frozen and cold chain products to its airline customers at EBL, catering to product categories including fresh fruit, meat and pharmaceuticals.

The new bus facility was designed to maintain the fleet of eight passenger apron buses and over 10 transportation buses operated at EBL.

Dnata’s new cargo warehouse, which is expected to open in 2023, will further significantly enhance the company’s cargo offering in Iraq. 

“Our latest investment in three new facilities will help us further expand and improve our operations in Erbil as demand for reliable and safe cargo services is on the rise across the region,” Tom Jones, managing director of dnata Erbil, said. 

 


Saudi pharma giant SPIMACO’s profit rises 25% to $8m in Q1

Saudi pharma giant SPIMACO’s profit rises 25% to $8m in Q1
Updated 17 May 2022

Saudi pharma giant SPIMACO’s profit rises 25% to $8m in Q1

Saudi pharma giant SPIMACO’s profit rises 25% to $8m in Q1

RIYADH:  Saudi Pharmaceutical Industries and Medical Appliances Corp., or SPIMACO, has posted a 25 percent rise in profit in the first quarter, compared to the same quarter a year earlier.

Profits of the Saudi-listed firm went up from SR24 million ($6.4 million) to SR31 million, according to a bourse filing.

The increase in profit was driven by a 30 percent growth in gross profit, coupled with a 45 percent increase in operating expenses.

Established in 1986, SPIMACO has been engaged in the medical and pharmaceutical industry, including the development, manufacturing, and distribution of pharmaceutical products and medical appliances.