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Jobs for women

In Saudi Arabia, it is not the glass ceiling that is the prime issue, it is the glass floor, according to this editorial from Arab News.

December 12, 2010 3:25 by



The two-day Women In Leadership Forum held in Jeddah last week has made an important contribution to the ongoing process of improving the status of women in Saudi society. This is a country where leaders are held in the highest respect; their views on a wide variety of issues are listened to and commended and their lifestyle and business choices emulated. So when people see — as we do — women taking up leadership positions in banks and businesses, chambers of commerce and municipalities, universities and hospitals, in training, IT and PR companies and even in government and the diplomatic service, it sends a positive message that this is approved at the highest levels and should be spread throughout society. That is indeed happening.

Nonetheless there is a serious problem. It is extremely encouraging that women are bringing their skills into the boardroom. But what does it say about a society where that is acceptable but there are arguments whether they can work in women’s lingerie stores or as cashiers in supermarkets? The fact is that there is strong resistance to women being employed, even in the most mundane of jobs. This is a different issue to the one about workplace gender separation. There is a significant section of society, not just men, totally opposed to women going out to work.

Ministers and officials can talk eloquently and newspapers can write at great length about the need to use all resources of the country to ensure its growth and prosperity, especially its human resources. That is true. But there is a more basic imperative. Women in Saudi Arabia need to work. The cost of living has soared. It is increasingly difficult for families, other than the very well off, to survive on a single income. Despite the belief abroad, only a miniscule minority of Saudis can be classed as super-rich.



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