JEDDAH: The number of women in the Saudi workplace has improved slightly since 2011, according to a report released this month by the Riyadh-based Glowork, a women’s employment organization.
The report — “Women in Management & Leadership in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia” — said that female economic participation remains low at 17.3 percent, showing only a slight increase since 2011 from 14.4 percent.
The study by Glowork, which was founded in 2011 by young Saudi entrepreneurs to empower women and increase diversity in the Saudi workforce, found that a number of policy enhancements have significantly supported the empowerment of women in the Kingdom over the past decades. Yet there remains room for improvement in understanding the benefits brought by female inclusion.
Shahad Attar, co-founder of CellA Network, which is involved in matching women’s talents with recruiters in Riyadh and Jeddah, said there needs to be more decision-makers leading local companies who can take strong steps to integrate women and create a cultural of inclusion.
“Culture change doesn’t happen magically overnight,” she told Arab News.
Researchers investigated the current status of female employment in Saudi Arabia and the development into management and leadership roles. It provided recommendations to improve the number of women in the workplace.
“Our findings suggest that the Kingdom is set up to make solid advancements toward a more gender-inclusive workforce using this data as a baseline to monitor progress,” the report said.
Research showed that among the policies that would contribute to promoting the inclusion of women in the workplace are offering equal pay for both genders, providing women with transportation to and from the workplace, flexible working hours and the ability to work remotely.
When it comes to policies, there is “no one cookie-cutter solution” that should be applied, Attar said. “Some companies find flexible hours and remote working effective for their employees’ needs, while others such as call centers find that providing onsite childcare better accommodates the needs of their female employees.”
According to the Glowork, 49 percent of companies report that women make up more than 15 percent of their workforce. Economic participation of Saudi women was 4.2 percent in 1990, showing an increase of more than 13 percent by 2015.
“There are still women who are looking for employment. They need more choices and more options,” Attar said. “It is an exciting time in Saudi Arabia for women, as opportunities are being created everyday.”
The Ministry of Labor announced in March that it was moving forward with plans to set up nurseries in workplaces and daycare centers to create “a safe and friendly working environment for women.” Increasing the number of women in the Saudi workforce from 22 percent to 30 percent is one of goals of the Vision 2030.