‘Saudi Arabia on the road to gender equality’

World Bank report places Saudi Arabia first in gender equality in GCC bloc and second in the Arab region

​ News Desk February 09, 2020
The World Bank report places Saudi Arabia first in gender equality in GCC bloc and second in the Arab region. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

Amid recent reforms that have revamped the conservative Arab kingdom’s picture around the world, a recent report by World Bank places Saudi Arabia first in gender equality in GCC bloc and second in the Arab region.

Saudi women are bringing “passion, energy and enthusiasm” to the workplace in greater numbers than ever, Danielle Atkins, chief marketing and communications officer at Diriyah Gate Development Authority (DGDA) in Riyadh, told Arab News on Sunday.

“I look for passion, an entrepreneurial spirit and commitment — and all of this I see from the Saudi women in my team. This is an incredible time for Saudi women,” Atkins emphasised.

The report that underscores Saudi Arabia’s rapid progress towards gender quality since 2017 by ranking it the top reformer and the top improver among 190 countries, gave the kingdom an overall score of 70.6 out of 100 — a 38.8 jump since its last ranking  — placing it first among GCC countries and second in the Arab world.

In line with a number of reforms, recently came Saudi Arabia’s enacted legislation and criminal penalties for sexual harassment and prohibited gender discrimination.

Moreover, by empowering women, in the area of marriage, the kingdom has begun allowing women to be head of the household and removed the legal obligation to obey their husbands. With regards to parenthood, Saudi Arabia, along with the UAE, prohibited the dismissal of pregnant workers.

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While equalising roles in almost every walk of life, the kingdom has kept the age of 60, at which both men and women can retire with full pension benefits.

Another vitalising  step towards gender equality is the country’ s new trend for women to study what have traditionally been regarded as exclusively male domains -- Science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Cyril Widdershoven, director of VEROCY, a Dutch consultancy advising on investments, energy and infrastructure in the region, said improvements in the position of women in Saudi Arabia are visible in offices, workplaces and on the streets.

“The role of women in the Saudi economy is clear. It is an available workforce that should be accessed,” he said.

“At the same time, diversity in the workforce is increasing overall productivity, profitability and sustainability.

“What needs to be done is to educate and strategise sectors for women.”

As for what young Saudi women will do after graduation, the Vision 2030 strategy envisages a big increase in the female workforce, rising to as much as 30 per cent over the next decade, the reports highlights.

This article originally appeared on Arab News


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