Saudi Arabia is a male guardianship society where women have limited rights. Women cannot drive a car, wear makeup, go into public places without the husband, father, or a brother accompanying them, they cannot swim, try on clothes while shopping, and even have limited voting rights. This is certainly an extreme society.
But the country is changing fast, and it is the women who are leading this change.
Women Heading Banking and Finance in Saudi Arabia
Last week, for instance, three of the topmost jobs in Saudi Arabia’s banking and finance were filled up by women. The country’s top bank, the Samba Financial Group, appointed Rania Nashar as their Chief Executive Officer. She has spent two decades in finance at different positions. The Arab National Bank, another leading player, also appointed Latifa Al Sabhan as their Chief Financial Officer.
That was not all. Last Thursday, the leading stock exchange of Saudi Arabia appointed Sarah Al Suhaimi as the Chairperson. This is the first time the country’s stock exchange will be headed by a woman. She will now be leading the largest stock exchange in the Middle East. Apart from being the Chairperson of the stock exchange, Sarah is also heading the country’s NCB Capital, where she is managing assets worth more than $20 billion.
That is remarkable for a country where women’s right is still a major cause for concern. The world was taken by surprise with these developments. But the women’s rights groups and others from around the world are naturally welcoming this move.
Concerns Remain in Saudi Arabia
The appointment of women in top banking and finance jobs is certainly a welcome move. But concerns remain. Most of the country’s female population is still unemployed, though the vision document for 2030 asks for an increase in women’s participation in the workforce from 22 percent to 30 percent.
Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, a prominent global investor, and keen to modernize the society and economy have called for an end to the driving ban. However, removing the ban has still not been included in the 2030 vision document. That document was created to prepare the economy and citizens in advance for a day when oil won’t play an important role anymore.
Apart from banking and finance, there is no woman who is occupying a prominent position in the country’s’ corporate world, though a few women are leading family businesses now.