Inspirational Saudi women offer sage advice to recent graduates entering the workforce

Inspirational Saudi women offer sage advice to recent graduates entering the workforce
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Hajar Alnaim. (Supplied)
 Reema Juffali is the first Saudi female professional racing driver to win an international motor race. (Instagram/reemajuffali)
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Reema Juffali is the first Saudi female professional racing driver to win an international motor race. (Instagram/reemajuffali)
Inspirational Saudi women offer sage advice to recent graduates entering the workforce
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Reema Juffali is the first Saudi female professional racing driver to win an international motor race. (Instagram/reemajuffali)
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Updated 17 July 2023
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Inspirational Saudi women offer sage advice to recent graduates entering the workforce

Inspirational Saudi women offer sage advice to recent graduates entering the workforce
  • ‘Vision 2030 has turned everything around,’ says Saudi motor sports pioneer Reema Juffali

RIYADH: Saudi women have time and again defied all odds with tenacity, carving niches for themselves across different fields since the country’s establishment.

From Princess Noura bint Abdulrahman, adviser to her brother King Abdulaziz, to Rayyanah Barnawi, the first Saudi woman to go to space, to Mishaal Ashemimry, the first female aerospace engineer in the Gulf Cooperation Council — the list is impressive and growing.

Some inspiring and resilient Saudi women spoke to Arab News to share their thoughts and offer sage advice to young Saudi graduates who are all set to enter the workforce.




Nouf Alosaimi. (Supplied)

“Take a chance and believe in yourself,” said Reema Juffali, the first Saudi female professional racing driver to win an international motor race.

With the driving ban in the Kingdom lifted in 2018, a realm of possibilities for women was unveiled, but with change came great uncertainty.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Hajar Al-Naim’s Studio Production Training is backed by the Saudi Cultural Fund.

• Hawazen Al-Hassoun, PwC’s Middle East COO, oversees all internal services for more than 2,000 employees in six offices around the Kingdom.

• Professional racing driver Reema Juffali was on BBC’s 100 Women list of inspiring and influential women around the world in 2022.

Juffali, who earned a spot on BBC’s 100 Women list of inspiring and influential women around the world last year, said: “The challenges have been more to do with self-belief, especially when things seemed to be not going my way. I’ve had to remind myself to be patient and trust the process to achieve my long-term goals.”




Nouf Al-Osaimi dived 105 meters in Jeddah’s Red Sea. (Supplied)

Women across the country are entering male-dominated fields and “intimidation is there when you’re around people who’ve been doing this for so many years.”

Women were first allowed into government spaces in 2011 following a royal decree by King Abdullah, who appointed 30 women to the Shoura Council.

“Vision 2030 has turned everything around. It’s not just opened new doors, but new horizons. Women in particular have now taken up jobs that they hadn’t had the opportunity to explore in the past,” Juffali said.




Hawazen Al-Hassoun, PwC’s Middle East COO

In the corporate world, PwC’s Middle East Chief Operating Officer Hawazen Al-Hassoun has made it her mission to create a work environment pillared by inclusion and diversity.

“This means creating an environment where employees have equal opportunities for career development and even equal pay in a culture that fosters respect to all,” Al-Hassoun told Arab News.

As the first woman to take up the position, she oversees all internal services for more than 2,000 employees in six offices around the Kingdom and focuses on implementing operational excellence, driving business process efficiency, and executing on strategic goals.




Inspiring the next generation of saudi women, Rayyanah Barnawi is the first saudi woman to go to space.

Bringing Vision 2030 to life, this year the regional headquarters welcomed 190 new graduates, all Saudi nationals — 50 percent of whom were women. They have also launched an on-the-job training program in AlUla that leverages the global consultancy’s collective industry expertise and aims to provide hands-on professional experience to fresh Saudi graduates.

Al-Hassoun, who grew up in a family that values equal opportunities, feels that “gender bias is still an issue. However, by speaking up and seeking out support, women can overcome these challenges and achieve success in their careers.”

The world needs more female leaders who contribute their skills and vision to the table. Ultimately, the path to success is never a straight line. Each one of us has their own unique journey. But always remember, don’t give up on your dreams.

Hawazen Al-Hassoun, PwC’s Middle East COO

According to a report published by the firm, 40 percent of working-age women within Saudi Arabia and GCC countries are employed, and fewer than 20 percent of all senior managers are females.

The type of cultural shift that would see more women in leadership positions involves a number of considerations. It is a transitional change, Al-Hassoun says, which will also require an agenda for diversity to be pushed more broadly across the workforce.

Women face a number of barriers that vary from managing work-life commitments to accessing training and development. There is also a lack of career opportunities and advancement.




A large number of scuba diving centers can be found in Saudi Arabia. (Supplied)

“Businesses need to embed diversity strategies for the entire career lifecycle, setting diversity key performance indicators to ensure fair assessments for women and reinforcing supportive workplace cultures. It’s also a critical step for employers to effectively attract, recruit, and retain talented young women,” Al-Hassoun said.

She suggests that businesses take steps like providing top mentorship and sponsorship, peer support groups, access to female leaders and role models, flexible work hours and paid leave, and equitable compensation processes.

NUMBER

105m

Nouf Al-Osaimi dived 105 meters in Jeddah’s Red Sea, the deepest depth achieved by a woman in Saudi Arabia.

Al-Hassoun said: “I want young women to understand the opportunities and career paths that are currently available to them. It is important with the consistent changes that are circling the Kingdom for young women to be aware and educated on what they are able to achieve and obtain.”

To young graduates, she emphasized the uniqueness of their individual perspectives: “The world needs more female leaders who contribute their skills and vision to the table. Ultimately, the path to success is never a straight line. Each one of us has their own unique journey. But always remember, don’t give up on your dreams.”

Many of the female change-makers were first and foremost driven by passion. For filmmaker Hajar Al-Naim, co-founder and executive producer at production house MTHEC and cofounder of Studio Production Training, her hope was to change lives.

As a student abroad at Loyola Marymount University, before the Kingdom established the Film Commission under the Ministry of Culture, it was clear that talents at home were lacking proper training.

“It wasn’t easy for a lot of guys to learn about filmmaking, so it was extra hard for me to learn about that in Saudi Arabia … That experience that I had in Los Angeles, I wanted to give it back to our talents in Saudi Arabia,” she told Arab News.

SPT, backed by the Saudi Cultural Fund, has recently launched The Studio program, which seeks to educate talent and provide fellow filmmakers with support throughout the production process.

Similarly, Saudi scuba instructor Nouf Al-Osaimi saw the discrepancy in the water sports industry.

Al-Osaimi first dived into the Red Sea in 2008 and instantly became mesmerized by its beauty and the richness of life teeming there. She began exploring the field and gained more experience, becoming an open-water diver and advancing to rescue and dive master.

In 2011, she graduated from the UK with a degree in tourism management.

“We didn’t even have tourism in Saudi Arabia at the time,” she told Arab News. “I do what I love and what makes me fulfilled. I don’t do things for the community, or society, or anyone — I do it for myself. When you do things for yourself, you go to places that you’ve never thought of.”

While she was working in Egypt after graduation, she said she was not taken seriously by her colleagues. “But I believed it was for me, which is why I pushed (for it),” Al-Osaimi said.

“The first challenge was that I wasn’t able to go on a boat without a guardian, so I was limited to small beaches. I had to be low-profile, and the community was dominated by men back then, so I had to be careful.”

From a societal aspect, the industry itself was not taken seriously. But Al-Osaimi overcame these challenges and slowly reached higher ranks, working at the diving center in a five-star hotel in Sharm El Sheikh.

After deciding it was time to come home and share her expertise locally, she became the first Saudi female technical diver, diving 105 meters in Jeddah’s Red Sea, the deepest distance achieved by a woman in the country.

She then founded the Red Sea Citizen Dive club to raise awareness about the diving field in the region, and Pink Bubbles Divers, a community-based group to empower women in the field, and held the first global PADI Women Dive Day in Saudi Arabia in 2017. She is now an AmbassaDiver for the Professional Association of Diving Instructors.

This year, she delivered the opening speech at the World Economic Forum, asking world leaders to protect the coral reefs in the Red Sea. She was also invited as a speaker at the Ocean’s Dinner event organized by the Saudi UNESCO delegation in Paris.

She said: “Finally, I can change people’s lives the same way diving changed mine … I dedicated my life to the thing I love most, even though it wasn’t something necessarily accepted in society.”

Al-Osaimi now captains her own boats, in a sign that bodes well for Saudi women as they set sail for new horizons.

 


Saudi source denies reports that commerce minister met Israeli counterpart

Saudi source denies reports that commerce minister met Israeli counterpart
Updated 27 February 2024
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Saudi source denies reports that commerce minister met Israeli counterpart

Saudi source denies reports that commerce minister met Israeli counterpart

RIYADH: An official Saudi source denied on Monday allegations circulating on social media platforms regarding a meeting between Majid Al-Qasabi, Minister of Commerce, and an Israeli occupation official, Saudi Press Agency reported.

The same source said in a statement carried by SPA that the video circulated was while Al-Qasabi was standing with his Nigerian counterpart, prior to the opening of the thirteenth Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization in Abu Dhabi.

“The individual shook (the Saudi minister’s) hand and then was introduced, without (Al-Qasabi’s) prior knowledge,” the source told SPA.

This was followed by Israeli media reports claiming that the two discussed peace between Saudi Arabia and Israel, with one Israeli outlet running a picture of the two under the heading: “Israeli minister and Saudi counterpart shake hands and discuss ‘making history together.’”

The source also affirmed to SPA Saudi Arabia’s firm position on the Palestinian issue and its steadfast support for the Palestinian people against Israeli aggression.


King Salman given award for services to Arab security

Saudi Interior Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud receives the award on behalf of King Salman in Tunis. (SPA)
Saudi Interior Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud receives the award on behalf of King Salman in Tunis. (SPA)
Updated 26 February 2024
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King Salman given award for services to Arab security

Saudi Interior Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud receives the award on behalf of King Salman in Tunis. (SPA)
  • The award was received by the Kingdom’s Interior Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud
  • Interior minister said the council is keen to achieve stability and development in the Arab world

RIYADH: King Salman was given the Prince Naif Award for Arab Security on Monday for his services to the security of the Arab community, Saudi Press Agency reported.

The Arab Interior Ministers Council conferred the award and it was received by the Kingdom’s Interior Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud in Tunis during a council meeting.  

The minister said the meeting was being held at a time when the Palestinian people are experiencing an unstable security situation which has caused the suffering of thousands of children, women, and the elderly. 

He said that the council, since its inception, is keen to achieve security for Arabs and bring about stability and development.

Prince Abdulaziz said the world is witnessing developments in cyber crime, the misuse of artificial intelligence, and advanced drug trafficking methods. 

These developments have “created fertile ground for the spread of multiple types of organized crime,” armed organizations, and terrorist groups which requires developing plans to invest in infrastructure and support development, education, and capacity building to confront these threats. 

He added that Arab coordination to deal with these threats is important in order to mitigate the possible negative repercussions from such threats. 


Saudi crown prince receives chairman of Russia’s State Duma

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman receives the Chairman of Russia’s State Duma Vyacheslav Volodin in Riyadh.
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman receives the Chairman of Russia’s State Duma Vyacheslav Volodin in Riyadh.
Updated 26 February 2024
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Saudi crown prince receives chairman of Russia’s State Duma

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman receives the Chairman of Russia’s State Duma Vyacheslav Volodin in Riyadh.
  • During the reception, the crown prince and Vyacheslav Volodin discussed the friendly relations between their countries

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman received the chairman of Russia’s State Duma in Riyadh on Monday.

During the reception, the crown prince and Vyacheslav Volodin discussed the friendly relations between the Kingdom and Russia.

They also reviewed prospects for parliamentary cooperation and discussed issues of common interest.


Soulful Arab, French songs mark opening of Francophonie Festival

Soulful Arab, French songs mark opening of Francophonie Festival
Updated 26 February 2024
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Soulful Arab, French songs mark opening of Francophonie Festival

Soulful Arab, French songs mark opening of Francophonie Festival
  • French-Egyptian opera singer Farrah El-Dibany pays tribute to Fayrouz, Dalida and Farid Al-Atrash
  • Month-long event will have events organized by French-speaking nations

JEDDAH: French-Egyptian opera singer Farrah El-Dibany opened the Francophonie Festival on Sunday here with soulful tributes to Arab legends including Fayrouz, Dalida and Farid Al-Atrash.

Dressed in white and gold attire, reminiscent of the clothing of the ancient Egyptians, El-Dibany, accompanied by Mina Barsoum on piano, Ahmed Boustaji on oud, and Aymen Attitallah on percussion, took the audience on a musical journey transcending borders and cultures.

El-Dibany’s repertoire included iconic French tunes such as “Je suis malade” and Arabic classics.

Diplomats, French expats, and cultural enthusiasts from Saudi Arabia and France attended the launch event. (Supplied)

El-Dibany said: “I am so thankful for being here in Jeddah for the first time,” encapsulating the spirit of cultural exchange and collaboration that defines the Francophonie Festival.

Prior to the performance, the French consul-general in Jeddah, Mohammed Nehad, spoke about the festival’s significance.

FASTFACTS

● The Francophonie Festival’s aim is to promote French and foster education, cultural and business ties with Saudi Arabia and the rest of the world.

● For the opening performance, Farrah El-Dibany was accompanied by Mina Barsoum on piano, Ahmed Boustaji on oud, and Aymen Attitallah on percussion.

● The launch event was attended by diplomats, French expatriates, and cultural enthusiasts, as well as Saudi Arabian officials and citizens.

He said the aim was to promote French and foster education, cultural and business ties with Saudi Arabia and the rest of the world.

“Through this festival, we aim to bring people together … francophone itself is a great example for cultural exchange,” he told Arab News.

The launch event was attended by diplomats, French expatriates, and cultural enthusiasts, as well as Saudi Arabia officials and citizens.

Cultural exchange and education are the main purposes of the festival in Saudi Arabia. (Supplied)

Among those in attendance was Larry Lamartiniere, the director of Alliance Francaise in Jeddah, who lauded El-Dibany’s performance as a fitting inauguration of the month-long Mois de la Francophonie 2024 in Saudi Arabia.

He told Arab News: “During March, the French Embassy and Alliance Francaise Saudi Arabia alongside other French-speaking countries and partners will organize events celebrating the rich diversity of francophone cultures.”

Established in 1970, the month is aimed at promoting cultural ties and human development across French-speaking nations worldwide. In Saudi Arabia, the festival acts as a platform for cultural exchange and education.

Cultural exchange and education are the main purposes of the festival in Saudi Arabia. (Supplied)

Several upcoming events include Benjamin Piat performing at NougCafe on Feb. 28, and the French University Graduates’ Night on March 27.

The Alliance Francaise will host a children’s workshop on Feb. 29, featuring culinary and visual arts programs. This will take place alongside a screening of the 2022 French film “Divertimento” that is the story of twin teenage sisters who dream of forming their own orchestra and making classical music available to everyone.

Senegal’s consulate will have discussions and cultural exchanges, the Francophonie Village will have a celebration of food, clothing and folk dance; and there will also be films shown at various schools, consulates and French clubs.

 


Saudi jewelry designer dazzles at Saudi Cup

Saudi jewelry designer dazzles at Saudi Cup
Updated 27 February 2024
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Saudi jewelry designer dazzles at Saudi Cup

Saudi jewelry designer dazzles at Saudi Cup
  • Raghad Al-Hogail’s jewelry creations are inspired by Saudi heritage, Arab identity

RIYADH: Los Angeles-based Saudi jewelry designer Raghad Al-Hogail brought showstopping looks to the Saudi Cup, accentuating her style statement with select pieces of jewelry she designed.

The founder of Ragail Jewelry spoke to Arab News about the thought that went into the pieces she was wearing: “I chose the most relatable piece — the Sun Orchid flower — because this flower when planted anywhere, it helps the other plants around them to grow and this is how I feel about Saudi people, they help each other grow.”

The brand’s origin began when Al Hogail was asked to participate in an exhibition in 2007. (Supplied)

Ragail Jewelry, a Saudi brand founded in 2014, features collections that emphasize the Saudi and Arab identities. Al-Hogail is proud of her identity and heritage, which is why she incorporates motifs such as Arabic lettering, camels, and Saudi coffee dallah in her designs.

The brand’s origin began when Al Hogail was asked to participate in an exhibition in 2007. It was her first time designing and presenting a collection, and she was surprised when every piece sold.

“In high school, my pieces were just brass, ribbon, and plastic and when my entire inventory was sold, I realized I had something special when it came to jewelry.

HIGHLIGHTS

● Ragail Jewelry was founded by Saudi designer Raghad Al-Hogail in 2014.

● The designs incorporate motifs such as Arabic lettering, camels, and Saudi coffee dallah.

● The designer hopes to create an art gallery in Saudi Arabia where people can engage and create art pieces.

“I participated in galleries and exhibits inside and outside the Kingdom and went to 40 shows around the world, including Paris Fashion Week, the Doha Jewelry Show, and more. I also started using materials like diamond, silver, and gold,” she said.

She exhibited her collections in Personage concept store from 2018 to 2020 and recalls it as a “a good experience.”

A piece inspired by the silver frame around the Black Stone located in the corner of the Kaaba in Makkah. (Supplied)

Al-Hogail relocated to California in 2014, attended a jewelry design school, and launched her own business in the downtown district of Los Angeles.

Speaking about her process and what inspires her collections, she added: “We don’t create collections for the summer or winter, but I do artwork whenever I get inspired. Stories served as inspiration for the pieces we created. It can occur at any moment, just like when writing a poem.”  

The brand’s origin began when Al Hogail was asked to participate in an exhibition in 2007. (Supplied)

According to Al-Hogail, each piece has a story, and the main reason for this is that she wants people to be able to relate to the story— when they wear the jewelry, they experience and become a part of it.

The pieces are made in Los Angeles and start at $400. She has also designed a piece that sold for $400,000, her most expensive creation.

I believe that when creative people come together … they flourish, and I want Saudi Arabia to have such an environ-ment.

Raghad Al-Hogail, Saudi jewelry designer

Al-Hogail said that her most sentimental collection is the Organic line, which she designed during a period of homelessness. The collection was inspired by the silver frame around the Black Stone located in the corner of the Kaaba in Makkah.

Despite being based in Los Angeles, the designer hopes to create an art gallery in Saudi Arabia where people can engage and create art pieces. She also hopes to take part in additional exhibitions within the Kingdom.

Speaking about why this dream is important to her, she said: “I enjoy being in creative environments because I believe that everyone is creative in some capacity. I believe that when creative people come together, whether they be authors, musicians, designers, or something else entirely, they flourish, and I want Saudi Arabia to have such an environment. A gathering place for all artists.”