Women in business: How empowering women will in turn power our economies
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Women in business: How empowering women will in turn power our economies

Women in business: How empowering women will in turn power our economies

Simply recruiting more females is not enough

Gulf Business
Dr. Maryam Ali Ficociello, Chief Governance Officer at The Red Sea Development Company

Each year, International Women’s Day marks a time of profound reflection for me. This year’s global theme to “Break the Bias” offers us a moment to pledge to create a more inclusive world. Indisputably, when we empower women, we power the hope for a brighter future.

Around the world, we have a long way to go. But I am encouraged by the significant strides that Saudi Arabia has made in creating an empowered society. Here is where we see true movement in breaking the bias.

I’ve personally had the privilege to witness profound and historic change in Saudi Arabia. When I started my career in 2003, there were only a handful of positions occupied by female executives. Today, women across the country are proving that what was once thought impossible, is in fact, possible.

Every day, barriers are being replaced by opportunity. Cultural limitations are giving way to social transformation. Change and evolution is thriving. Our society rightly recognises that the economy cannot prosper if half the population is on the sidelines. Beyond a corporate objective for organisations, women enablement is being realised as a necessity for our society – an essential means for our continued progress as a strong nation.

What truly spearheaded this change is our great nation’s vision to not only diversify and strengthen the nation’s economy, but equally diversify and strengthen efforts in enabling women. In driving the largest and fastest economic and social reform programme in our history, Vision 2030 charts a bold path to empowering women to play their part in the nation’s future.

The road to women enablement
For many of us, Saudi Arabia’s position towards women enablement is iconically symbolised by women taking to the roads in 2018. While that’s important, what’s perhaps more notable is the path that Saudi women have embarked upon in the workplace. Women in Saudi Arabia enjoy equal pay to their male counterparts – something that many in western nations have sadly yet to see. Soon, women in the workforce will constitute 30 percent of all jobs across the public and private sector.

Never has there been a more promising time to be a young woman in Saudi Arabia. Our nation’s female youth have countless role models in top leadership positions to look up to. We recently saw the historic appointment of Princess Reema bint Bandar bin Sultan bin Al-Saud as Saudi Arabia’s first woman ambassador to the US and the first Saudi female ambassador elected as a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Closer to my peripheral, I see female engineers working on-site to provide innovative solutions to complicated challenges. I see female scientists conducting ground-breaking research. I see female inventors revolutionising new processes and products. I see female tech-innovators making advancements in big data, the Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Reality. I see female board members and managers serving in various leadership positions.

These achievements are truly profound, but there is still work to be done.

Every step forward is important
We must eliminate all barriers that hinder women from excelling and climbing to the top. We must harness the full potential of women’s intellect, ingenuity, and innovation.

Simply recruiting more females is not enough. We need to drastically accelerate our efforts in development, mentorship, and leadership programmes. This includes providing both professional and personal support – from career advancement to enhancing work-life balance. We need to prioritise policies that foster an inclusive, respectful, and tolerant work environment. We need to encourage and support diversity. This is how we will pave the way for a new future for the kingdom; one where young Saudi women will be at the front of the line, integral to the process of shaping more equitable and tolerant societies.

And as we inch closer and closer to this future, I urge all women: do not lose patience. Instead, be prepared. Be prepared to aim high and rewrite the rules. Be prepared to embrace the unknown. Be prepared to persist and persevere, just like the pioneering women before you who surmounted unimaginable obstacles so that you may go even further.

Dr. Maryam Ali Ficociello is the chief governance officer at The Red Sea Development Company and AMAALA

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