A new study in Saudi Arabia has shown employers are increasingly realising the benefits of investing in an inclusive culture and workforce.

Two organisations, Glowork and AccountAbility. launched a joint study on female leadership and management in the Kingdom, with a focus on what happens once women are employed.

The aim of the research was to provide practical recommendations for the public and private sectors, along with case studies highlighting success stories from organisations leading the way in promoting women in the workforce.

“We strongly believe in the positive and sustainable value that can be created with diversity in management and leadership,” said the report’s foreword, by David Pritchett, global head of research at AccountAbility and Khalid Alkhudair, founder and CEO of Glowork. “Diversity brings new perspectives, it brings new skills and new ambitions that add strength to an organisation’s ability to strategise, communicate and deliver in society.”

Alkhudair, whose organisation empowers women to enter the labour market, believes the retail sector was one of the first to make big steps in the right direction. “In the last five years, it was made mandatory in the retail sector for women to work in some shops,” he said.

“A lot of businesses were sceptical of this. But it helped their sales because women were more comfortable buying from other women. Women shop assistants better understand the requirements of women shoppers. So companies are starting to realise that the majority of their consumers are females.”

He also suggested several ways in which the government can help get more women into work, other than quotas, which he says are useful at first but should not be relied on in the long term.

“More legislation is needed,” he said. “Certain questions are asked by interviewers, about age, marital status, the number of children and so on. These are all biased questions and we are trying to eradicate them from interviews; [we want to] achieve something like International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) global standards, where employers aren’t allowed to ask these questions.

“The childcare element is very important too, either subsidising it or getting companies to invest more in their own childcare. And there need to be more success stories and role models in the media, as well as more advocacy on bridging the gap between education and employment.

“We also need to implement sexual harassment laws. Then we can get rid of worker segregation as it currently is today,” he added.

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