Saudi Arabia needs more women CEOs |
Arab News - 27 July, 2012
Author: Saad Al-Dossari
Yahoo has just appointed a new CEO. Marissa Mayer, a top executive for many years with their rival, Google, has been selected to take the top position and steer the company into a brighter future. And by the way, the new CEO is pregnant! Now in comparison, how many of you, especially males, have a CEO, or a manager for that matter, who is a Saudi female?
Interestingly enough, despite the fact that there are a number of top female politicians in the many countries, some women are still facing difficulties in getting top managerial positions around the globe, and not only in Saudi Arabia. A mix of economical, social, and of course a number of stereotypical factors hold women back from the front seats of power and authority.
In a report published by Grant Thornton in 2011, globally women were found to hold only 20 percent of senior management positions, down from 24 percent in 2009. The top positions women were able to occupy were 22 percent in finance, human resources at 20 percent, followed by marketing and sales at only 9 percent.
The report signals that women were pressurized because of the economical recession that hit the world in 2008. And as the world economy is still standing on shaky ground, it is inevitable to expect even poorer rates of women employed in decision-making positions.
Now narrowing the focus down on Saudi Arabia, leaving out economical decline from the formula, we still have a major problem in the principle of employing women, let alone employing them in high-ranking positions especially in the private sector.
According to a report published by Booz & Co. in 2010, women represent less than 15 percent of the national work force in Saudi Arabia. Unfortunately, this represents the lowest levels of female participation in the workforce in the region. UAE leads the way at 59 percent followed by Kuwait at 42.5 percent. Moreover, it should come as no surprise that 95 percent of working Saudi women are employed by the government, 85 percent of them in the education sector. While only 5 percent are employed by the private sector.
And if we exclude Aramco, which is a company with its own mentality that is unique and not part of the whole Saudi business scene, in addition to some banks, private educational institutions, and few family owned companies, Saudi women are not even close to senior positions.
Maybe we will find one or two organizations, most likely family owned, with a woman holding the ultimate position of a CEO or a chairman of the board, but that is rare.
Big companies, with hundreds and even thousands of employees, in the telecom and aviation sectors for example, are male dominated in all its ranks. And when such companies think of recruiting females, usually it is in the customer care or sales with almost a zero chance of climbing up the ladder to a senior position.
This is an unfair and tragic situation for ambitious Saudi women. And the Ministry of Labor faces challenges larger than merely allowing women to work as cashiers or saleswomen in lingerie shops.
Sectors like engineering, medicine, administration, finance, human resources, law, marketing, computer, and information technologies are all untapped sectors for highly educated Saudi women who need only a real chance to prove themselves, to shine, and possibly take the lead in big companies, based on their qualifications and despite their gender.