Saudi Arabia now has a new dedicated job search website for women. Created by 23-year-old Algerian biomedical engineer, Naziha Deriche, the site is called ‘Alajnabia’, which means ‘foreigner’ in Arabic, and refers ironically to the idea that to work as a woman in Saudi is a relatively ‘foreign’ concept.

Deriche grew up in the Kingdom and observed that most advertised jobs were for men. features jobs for women in sectors such as education, healthcare, marketing, accounting, engineering and more. The target group of females is the younger generation, who are educated but lack access to information about available positions.

The site features jobs from more than 40 recruitment agencies, and as of July 2017, had already received more than 1,000 CV uploads.

A Booz & Co study conducted in 2008 revealed that Saudi women only made up 15 per cent of the total workforce in the country, while 60 per cent of females held a PhD but were unemployed.

But times are changing: in 2011, Khalid al-Khudairi founded Glowork, the Middle East’s first female recruitment agency. To date, more than 27,000 Saudi women have found jobs through Glowork, and the agency’s aim is to increase that figure to 50,000.

The KSA Ministry of Labour and Social Development released figures earlier this year, which found the number of Saudi females working in the private sector had increased by 130 per cent in the past four years – from 215,000 in 2012 to 496,000 in 2016.

Saudi women now make up 30 per cent of the workforce in the private sector. The Ministry’s aim is for them to comprise 28 per cent of the Kingdom’s total workforce by 2020.

Zaben Al Shareef, recruitment supervisor at Dr. Sulaiman Al-Habib Medical Group, believes there are several factors helping women find jobs, including “King Abdullah’s focused programme to increase the number of educational institutions around the kingdom; and the launch of the scholarship programme in 2005, for sending students abroad for an education.

“Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman launched the 2020 National Transformation Programme as part of the Saudi 2030 Vision, and reducing unemployment is one of its main objectives. Consequently, the Ministry of Labour is now actively supporting women in employment,” added Al Shareef.

The Saudisation plan is creating opportunities for women in retail, tourism, and telecommunication, as well as new roles which involve working from home – especially for women who live outside major cities.

Al Shareef believes the corporate world is also becoming easier to access for women. He cites examples: “Sarah Al-Suhaimi is the head of the Saudi Arabia Stock Exchange Market – known as Tadawul; Khlood Al-Dukheil is the chair of the National Statistical Commission; Rania Nashar is the CEO of Samba Capital; and there are many others.

“Many Saudi women have achieved great success internationally, such as Dr. Hayat Sindi, who is a UNESCO goodwill ambassador for science and education. She developed a diagnostic tool for the early detection of breast cancer,” added Al Shareef. “And 20 per cent of the Saudi Arabia Shura Council is occupied by females.”

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