Saudi Arabia continues to introduce policies to boost women’s empowerment as it marches towards its goal of improving women’s rights and increasing Saudi women’s economic participation in the country from 17% to 25% by 2030. Since the launch of Vision 2030 in 2016, women have gained some extremely important rights.
They can drive, travel independently without a male guardian, lead companies and work in important sectors previously closed to them such as military and aviation. They can live alone, be appointed a child’s guardian and register or issue important family documents. They cannot be subject to gender discrimination in employment, access to financial services, or pension benefits.
Saudi Arabia has been recognized as the top global reformer by the World Bank’s “Women, Business, and the Law 2020” report following implementation of such wide-ranging reforms to advance women’s economic participation,
The icon for the role of women in Saudi Arabia, Princess Reema bint Bandar bin Sultan al-Saud, appointed Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States in 2019 and elected member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 2020, expressed her optimism for the future of Saudi women in an open letter for Vogue Arabia:
“Never has there been a more promising, more optimistic time to be a young woman in Saudi Arabia than right now. Barriers are being replaced by opportunity. What we are now seeing in the Kingdom is a historic wakeup call – a long-overdue realization that our economy cannot prosper or thrive if half our population is on the side lines, unable to fully participate and contribute. Change is now happening all around us and our collective journey will continue until Saudi women are so genuinely accepted in every job and sector that we never again have to call any Arab woman “the first.” What will the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia look like 30 or 50 years from now? That I don’t know. But what I do know, is that whatever the future holds for the Kingdom, young Saudi women will be at the front of the line, integral to the process of shaping it.”
As the Kingdom continues to improve its record on female empowerment and gender equality, Saudi women are stepping up and stepping out. A vital element of Vision 30’s development strategy, they are taking on managerial roles in record numbers. High profile female Saudi professionals include Lubna Olayan (chair, Saudi British Bank), Sarah Al-Suhaimi (chair, Tadawul, Saudi stock exchange), Rania Nashar (former CEO, Samba Financial Group) and Afrah Al-Othman (first Saudi female to operate an ROV).
They are also making a name in aviation as captains, pilots, flight attendants, dispatchers as well as marketing and management professionals. Well-known female aviation professionals include Hanadi Zakaria Al-Hindi, the first female pilot to fly with a Saudi commercial pilot license; Rawia Al-Rifi, the first to fly the Airbus A320 internationally as a civil aircraft from the UAE;; and co-pilot Yasmin Al-Maimani, first woman to co-pilot a commercial plane in the Kingdom. These high-flyers are inspiring a whole new generation of young women who are enthusiastic, passionate and committed to a career in aviation.
From opera singers to scientists, fashion designers to engineers, CEOs to ambassadors, entrepreneurs to airline pilots, Saudi women are changing the face of Saudi Arabia’s business, economy and society.