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Women in workforce

14 July 17

Saudi Gazette

Saudi women compete with their male counterparts in the Kingdom's job market by successfully occupying various positions. Many of them have already proved their ability to outdo men in both public and private sectors despite a shortage of opportunities and many legal and administrative obstacles.

According to a report released by the Ministry of Labor and Social Development in March, the country's private sector registered a 130 percent increase in the number of working Saudi women during the last four years. About 30 percent of the total Saudi workforce in the private sector is now represented by women.

The government has plans to increase the proportion of women in the country's total workforce to 28 percent by 2020.

However, family and social responsibilities put too much strain on Saudi workingwomen while strict administrative rules do not give them any consideration even when they get pregnant or breast-feed children. The lack of baby care near work places is another issue.

Saudi workingwomen have called upon the authorities to consider the special situation of pregnant and breast-feeding women. Such humanitarian considerations are essential to reduce the psychological pressure on workingwomen and make use of their full potential for national development.

Dr. Abdulmannan Mulla, professor of counseling psychology, said women cannot withstand mental stress like men and every effort must be made to ensure their peace of mind in work place.

“Women in Arab and oriental societies play different roles as mother, wife and employee at the same time and this will increase their mental stress. The authorities should take measures to bring down the strain of work on women to reasonable levels,” he told Al-Riyadh Arabic daily.

“Too much tension will finish off women physically and psychologically,” he added.

Mulla also spoke about the suffering of women teachers. They work many hours at school and then return home to take care of their husbands and children.

“No doubt this double work would weaken women and put too much strain on them mentally and physically. In addition, they are confronted with tough administrative rules at schools and offices. Overpressure would make her work like a machine without displaying any enthusiasm and interest,” he said.

Mulla urged the authorities including managers to consider the special situation of women and their commitment toward the family members, including spouses, children, in-laws and parents. “These are huge responsibilities that demand too much effort,” he added.

Dr. Saleh Al-Khodairy, professor of sociology at King Saud University, highlighted the significant role being played by women in society. “Women are not only educated but also ambitious, and at the same time they have to follow social customs and traditions.”

He emphasized the need to protect workingwomen’s rights. “Balancing between the responsibilities of the family and employment is a big problem for women. Most workingwomen leave small children at home before going to work and this puts extra mental pressure on them," said Al-Khodairy.

A woman, being her children's first teacher and the medium between them and the outside world, should stay with them until they reach at least the age of three, he said.

“Psychological studies underline that workingwomen suffer a spate of mental disturbances even when they opt for employment without any outside pressure. The Labor Law should be followed strictly to protect women’s rights. Some private companies and organizations do not protect women’s rights in order to make material gains,” Al-Khodairy explained.

He believed increased social attention would change the present difficult situation workingwomen face. This would help create a balanced personality in women, which in turn enhance their professional performance.

Basima Qeshma, a trainer and supporter of women’s work, said men, including husbands and managers, often ignore the pressure workingwomen go through. “Women face the biggest pressure in daily life,” she said.

Qeshma said women play various roles in society and this shows her huge capabilities and potentials. “Women have made great contributions while living in an environment of constant pressure. But this pressure should not continue for long as it would have a negative impact on their health,” she said.

Qeshma believed the pressure on workingwomen is reducing, which is “an encouraging sign.”

She emphasized the need to enact laws to protect women’s rights, especially when they become pregnant and breastfeed children.

“We have to learn from countries like France where a woman is given two years' leave with pay after child birth. In the Kingdom, the maternity leave is only for three months. Some employers do not pay them salary during this period while others pay only a portion of the salary.

Qeshma proposed that women should be allowed to work part time to reduce their mental stress.

Businesswoman Afaf Al-Abdullah said women’s situation in the Kingdom’s male-dominated social structure is improving day after day. “Workingwomen who take care of their husbands and children endure a lot of strain. They work eight hours and then return home to continue working rest of the day,” she said.

She said women are capable to shouldering pressure to a great extent. “But overpressure would destroy her,” she added.

Al-Abdullah said every private company and government department should consider women’s special situation and take measures to reduce the pressure of work on her.

“We should establish day care centers near schools and government offices in order for workingwomen to take care of their children. Breast-feeding women should be allowed to leave their work places early,” she pointed out.

Al-Abdullah said employers should exhibit flexibility to reduce pressure on workingwomen and at the same time help them play different roles in society.

Dr. Ahmed Al-Qadi, a consultant, highlighted women’s family and social responsibilities. He believed workingwomen would be able to overcome their difficulties by appointing maids and leaving their children in nurseries.

“Existing regulations allow pregnant women to take leave before and after delivery. Some government departments and private firms allow breast-feeding women to leave work early while some government departments have established nurseries for children of female staff.

He said young men and women should be encouraged to look at work more seriously in order to strengthen national economy. “We should ensure workingwomen their rights and help them shoulder their responsibilities as both employees and housewives,” he added.
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