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Arab Spring For Saudi Women In Manufacturing?

Posted By Paul Tate, September 27, 2011 at 2:01 PM, in Category: Next-Generation Leadership and the Changing Workforce

At one time, Saudi Arabian traditions prevented women from entering many industrial sectors at all. But as the Arab Spring continues its impact across the region, the times are changing for Saudi Arabian women too.

Senior Saudi official Ulfat Qabbani, who is deputy chair of the Industrial Committee at the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and deputy chair of the Higher Committee for the Federation of Arab Women Investors, now predicts that over 30,000 women will be employed in the kingdom’s growing manufacturing sector over the next three years.

“Saudi women have proven their roles in pushing forward the wheel of economic and industrial development,” she said.

This is part of a broader plan to use Saudi’s vast oil wealth to help stimulate and develop new industries and jobs in other sectors. And Qabbani is looking to private manufacturing companies to help make this happen. She sees pharmaceuticals, clothing, food and other manufacturing sectors as the key areas for women employees in the future.

Over the last 20 years, the number of working Saudi women has more or less tripled, from 5.4 percent to 14.4 percent. Even so, around 95% of all working Saudi women today are still employed in the public sector – the vast majority in education. The latest announcement suggests this may be about to change.

It may be a slow process, and it’s not clear at what level women will be employed in these new manufacturing roles, but at least it seems to be heading in the right direction.

Do you have experience of working in Saudi Arabia? What's your view on this latest announcement?

Written by Paul Tate

Paul Tate is Research Director and Executive Editor with Frost & Sullivan's Manufacturing Leadership Council. He also directs the Manufacturing Leadership Council's Board of Governors, the Council's annual Critical Issues Agenda, and the Manufacturing Leadership Research Panel. Follow us on Twitter: @MfgExecutive


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