Saudi Arabia has a high proportion of its young “work force” that are well educated to degree level; but how many women work in Saudi Arabia? Out of over 5 million female graduates in Saudi only about 10%, 500,000 have any sort of employment.
The answer to this problem from the government is to make it compulsory to employ women within Lingerie stores and from later in this year cosmetics stores. Up until now if you go into these stores all of the people working in the store would have been men, often Indian or a very effeminate Filipino guy with long hair (he seems to work in a number of the stores selling women’s apparel across the kingdom.) How many of these women with degrees in marketing, finance and a host of other subjects are going to be happy with their new found employment selling panties to other Saudi women? Does the solution to you sound as sexist as the problem?
Women in the kingdom are treated very much as possessions without any real freedoms to do as they wish with their lives; they are segregated from society with their own entrances to banks and restaurants, separate areas for seating and so on. They are unable to drive and risk arrest if they are caught alone with a man who is not their brother, father, husband or son; so if they are alone in a car with their driver they risk arrest if the driver is not a family member.
Women working in Saudi Arabia are generally restricted to working in the hospitals or if an expat from a poorer country in a domestic position. There are very few women working in an “office” environment, having traveled the country and visited many companies as a consultant I only worked with one company that employed women visibly within their offices and that company was owned in Dubai rather than being a straight Saudi company. The women that I met there and those that I know socially are on the whole better educated than the men with a far better work ethic, they actually work, which is more than can be said for most of the Saudi men!
One woman working in the kingdom has made a name for herself internationally by taking to her car and driving on camera for the world to see, Manal al-sharif is a plucky young lady that was jailed for 9 days for driving to protest against the governments treatment of women. She worked for Saudi Aramco (notice the tense used for “worked”) with a reasonable job for a woman in the kingdom, even enjoying international travel to the states. But as soon as she put her head above the parapet and spoke out against the way women are treated in Saudi Arabia her company sacked her. This means that she is now not only job-less but homeless as her accommodation was also provided by the company, surviving alone as a divorcee with a son is not going to be easy.
Saudi Aramco is probably one of the most progressive companies in the kingdom, employing many Saudis and expats alike it is seen as being the place to work in Saudi Arabia by many people. However it still does not give a fair chance to women to work in the country.
Manal al-Sharif: ‘They just messed with the wrong woman’
She is the Saudi woman who became a symbol of female emancipation when she was filmed behind the wheel of a car. In a rare interview, she tells Guy Adams of the persecution she has endured in her fight for equality – and why she will not be silenced
You have to admire this woman for speaking out for women’s rights in the country, she has even been “killed off” by the newspapers in the country in a car crash to show how bad her campaign for women driving is! Women need to be able to drive, they need more freedom and they need to be allowed to work in any company in the kingdom not just in a lingerie store!