The evolving role of women in Saudi Arabia is rapidly changing - at least in part due to the country's opening up to tourism and foreign influence thanks to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
There is no doubt that this is a period of prosperity for Saudi women as their role has evolved rapidly and in many ways. Women make up a significant percentage of the labor force. One industry in which women are heavily represented in the Saudi job market is software development. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Apple chose Riyadh as the location for its first Developer Academy in the Middle East. According to statistics released by the Saudi Arabian Federation of Cybersecurity, Programming, and Drones (SAFCSP), women also make up 45% of Saudi Arabia's cybersecurity workforce. While the field was once almost entirely male-dominated, women around the world, including Saudi Arabia, are now successfully building careers in STEM spaces, contributing to innovative answers to the challenges of today and tomorrow.
Equally interesting, on February 12, 2023, the Saudi Press Agency announced that the first Saudi female astronaut named Rayana Bernawi, along with another Saudi astronaut, will be sent to the International Space Station in the second quarter of 2023.
During his reign, King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz changed historical context, when he expanded the women’s rights:
they were given the right to vote,
and were not prohibited from participating in municipal elections,
30 women were included in the Majlis al-Shura, an advisory body that drafts and submits bills to the king,
for the first time in history, a woman became deputy minister of education.
The "Vision: 2030" strategy attempts to break free from dependence on foreign labor and replace it with local personnel.
It is only natural that liberalizing the position and status of women ensures both the strengthening of the kingdom's economy, which is one of the stated goals of Vision 2030, and provides a positive image of the country in the Persian Gulf, which for many years remained closed to much of the world.
In Saudi Arabia, until 2005, women could only work in a limited number of fields, such as medicine, education, and commerce, which is one of the rising sectors. However, they could only work in places frequented exclusively by women.
Since 2013, women have finally been officially allowed to work as lawyers. Previously, they could only hold the position of legal counselor. In the same year, Ayat Bahriba became the first female police officer. And in 2019, Yasmin Al Maimani was promoted to the position of the first commercial airline pilot.
Overall, female employment rates have skyrocketed since Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman introduced the Vision 2030 program in 2016, which has brought huge changes and opportunities for women in Saudi Arabia. And it is fair to say that Saudi Arabia has fully embraced women empowerment and women professionals are now represented at all levels in the workplace, which increases the economic growth.
Over the past four years, female unemployment has fallen by 13.9%, as indicated by the World Trade Organization. Perhaps most impressive is the number of women entrepreneurs in Saudi Arabia. According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor 2021 report, Saudi Arabia has the third-highest number of female entrepreneurs in the world.
There are a lot of foreign workers in Saudi Arabia, from janitors to neurosurgeons. For several years, the local authorities have been working to reduce the number of foreigners in the future, but it is a very difficult and slow process. Case studies show that 90% of cab drivers, laborers, and construction workers in Saudi Arabia are Pakistanis. Nannies, housekeepers, masters in beauty salons, and kindergarten teachers are women who came from the Philippines and Ethiopia. People coming to Saudi Arabia from developing countries get good salaries and a roof over their heads.
While gender inequality is still relevant - women, in particular, earn less than men and are still unable to marry off their free will - progress is undoubtedly evident.
Saudi girls are known for their willpower, dedication, and resilience. From a young age, they take on increased responsibility due to the demands of society, carrying that same commitment into adulthood, courageously fulfilling several obligations while maintaining a brave appearance and constant concern for those around them.
Ultimately, Saudi cultural norms value respect for elders. Older women in this society hold a revered position and serve as examples of strength, wisdom, and guidance for the younger generation.
The softening of the radical stance against the female population was dictated by the liberalization of the kingdom as a whole. One of the most important advances in women's freedoms and rights under King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz was the provision of increased opportunities for women to study at foreign universities and colleges, creating a new generation of qualified personnel.
These days in Saudi Arabia, women are not only in the driving seat, but they are also working for services like Uber and Careem. What does this mean for women visiting Saudi Arabia who intend to drive? You won't be alone on the roads.
Motivation is the basis for success. Success tips for you: set ambitious goals, be persistent, mobilize all your internal resources, and make high demands on yourself, and you will be successful.
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