Saudi women have made an unprecedented progress in joining the labor market in their country due to the many new reforms that the government implemented since 2019. New opportunities arose for women to work in previously male-dominated industries.
Saudi women are a vital element for the success of Vision 2030. Several reforms have been implemented to incentivize and protect women to enter the labor market, according to the World Bank Women Business and Law report. These have included equalized women’s right to choose a place of residency. They prohibited discrimination based on gender in employment, the dismissal of pregnant women and discrimination based on gender in accessing to credit. The decrees introduced pension equality by equalizing the retirement ages for men and women and mandating pension care credits for maternity leave.
These reforms are already benefiting 6 million Saudi women over the age of 21 and will affect women for many generations to come. Women’s employment in traditionally male dominated sectors also increased. In 2020 alone, 7,782 women entered the construction sector—where women’s employment was previously prohibited by law—and 6,662 took on new roles in manufacturing.
To showcase these new opportunities for women and the changes in jobs they are holding, we talked to three different Saudi women who took jobs in previously mostly male dominated industries:
Kareman Al-Ghamdi, a single mother in her 40s, is one of those Saudi women who decided to break barriers and become a delivery driver in Careem, one of the transportations companies.
Al-Ghamdi had other types of jobs before, more routine office jobs in the HR field. But once women in Saudi Arabia were allowed to drive, Al-Ghamdi decided to apply as a driver since she knew she could succeed at this type of job.
She said, “There are a lot of struggles that come with this type of work, but if we only think of these struggles, we will never leave our homes or do anything. I faced denial from others when they saw that I am a woman driving a car. Some people think since I am a service delivery driver that its fine for them to treat me badly. Long working hours keep me far away from my daughter, but as a mother, I am trying to achieve my goals and hit the delivery targets.”