Young Rana Abdullah Zumai began a career managing tailoring and embroidery factories in front of many Saudi Arabian women.
“One of the challenges I faced was that I started running factories in 2013, when women would never run businesses,” Zumai said, explaining the difficulties she encountered during her journey.
The Saudi national has pioneered diversity and inclusion programs in her major areas of expertise, including human development and business.
She is currently Senior Director of Corporate Communications and Knowledge at the Saudi Geological Survey and plans to grow and improve the company in which she works by aligning the company’s vision with the Saudi 2030 vision.
“In the near future I would like to start something and I am working on establishing a corporate communications and knowledge department in the Saudi Geological Survey,” Zumai said, sharing her future aspirations for the institution she currently heads.
Speaking about the skills needed to be a successful woman in the Gulf Cooperation Council field, she said one should act in such a way that “you will be proud of yourself all the time and you will be representing your country from all the countries.” GCC in the right way that reflects your culture and your beliefs.”
Zumai is a shining example of the changes Kingdom Vision 2030 can bring to society in terms of women’s labor market participation.
She described how the rise of women in the workforce, and her career in particular, is evidence that Vision 2030 is “changing their lives and not just speaking on paper”.
Launched in 2016, Saudi’s Vision 2030 has been a driving force behind all of the legislative reforms the kingdom has introduced over the past six years to encourage women’s participation in business and society.
These changes became more apparent in 2017, when the kingdom issued an executive order allowing women to hold government services without the consent of their male guardians.
In 2018, over 48,000 women entered the labor market, an 8.8 percent increase from the previous year, with female employment reaching an all-time high in the kingdom today, according to the Saudi General Authority for Statistics.
Encouraged by this, the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Labor and Social Development launched the Women in the Workplace program in January 2019, which eventually mandated equal pay.
These changes had far-reaching implications for the business world and beyond. The kingdom, for example, was one of the first states in the region to have a women’s soccer league in February 2020.
Judgments like that of a July 2020 court declaring that Saudi women living alone should not be penalized further encourage women to break free from their shackles and take advantage of the wealth of opportunities the kingdom has to offer.
These changes are reflected in the fact that the Kingdom awarded 139,754 new commercial licenses to women in 2021, indicating one of the highest growth rates in the world.
Today, Saudi women are open to venturing into fields of work traditionally considered male-dominated, even in the Western world.
For example, a recent job posting in Saudi Arabia for 30 women train drivers attracted interest from 28,000 applicants, demonstrating the level of demand among women for such positions as the kingdom expands opportunities for them.
As Saudi Arabia has introduced a number of legislative reforms in recent years, this is helping to increase the level of expertise, competence and skills among the female workforce.
These reforms continue to help develop appropriate mechanisms focused on entrepreneurship and creativity to enable women to participate and thrive.
As a result, women are constantly evolving and making their mark in various fields today.
For example, Saudi Arabian food and beverage entrepreneur Naaisa Al-Oteishan, who started her business journey from a home bakery, now runs her own F&B consultancy in Riyadh with her business partner Amjad Hamadeh.
“Our consultancy ‘Head 2 Table’ has signed its first contract with the Department of Investment. We will go to AlUla to bring innovative Greek-Saudi dishes for the Greek delegation coming to Saudi Arabia to do business with the Kingdom,” she told Arab News.
Al-Oteishan also co-founded Yello, a breakfast and brunch restaurant in Riyadh. “The concept behind our menu is international with fusion; For example, we mix Korean kimchi with beef and eggs,” she added.
Sharing her success mantra, Al-Oteishan said she advises Saudi women and entrepreneurs to keep going and never stop. “This is our time to shine, dream big and be creative,” she added.
Another successful entrepreneur is Raghad Fathaddin. The founder of the Estidama Hub sangha platform shared how her development programs enable Saudi youth and future leaders to differentiate themselves by being properly placed in the current economy to lead the welfare economy of the future.
Fathaddin was a candidate for the Kingdom’s SPARK scheme, an initiative aimed at helping entrepreneurs turn their business ideas into reality.
“They chose some of us to receive an award and I’m glad I was one of them. It really helped me to start this journey and bring sangha to life,” said Fathaddin.
Their short-term goals would be to create an online platform that would teach trainees to deliver their programs to schools.
In the long term, she said, they really hope that sangha will become part of the Saudi education system, in both public and private schools. “Not just in Saudi Arabia, I see it going global. We’ve already received so many people from New York and Italy who are interested in our work,” revealed Fathaddin.
From a region that has not seen women as active players in the labor market, the GCC is rapidly evolving into a society that is witnessing an immense increase in female participation.
The kingdom in particular improved female labor force participation, with a 31.8 percent increase in 2021, beating the 27.6 percent target for 2020, according to the Unified National Platform, GOV.SA.
Saudi Arabia aims to move forward and implement its gender equality and environmental protection initiatives while steadily working towards realizing the vision of building a more inclusive and sustainable nation by 2030.