Women at the Forefront of Change: Insights Into Saudi Arabia’s Evolving Cultural & Business Landscape

March 14, 2023

Women at the Forefront of Change – Key takeaways:

  • The core of Saudi Arabian culture is now focused on embracing change and fostering acceptance and progression.
  • The Kingdom has recently implemented a number of initiatives aimed at promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace, presenting opportunities for businesses to tap into a broader pool of talent.
  • The recent reforms and initiatives aimed at diversifying the economy, such as the Vision 2030 plan and the creation of new investment opportunities and regulatory frameworks has fostered robust trust in the Saudi economy.
  • Women’s participation in the workforce has increased dramatically, with more opportunities for women-led entrepreneurship and innovation.
  • Digital transformation has been a top priority for the country, with advancements in technology and infrastructure that are driving innovation and growth.

Women at the Forefront of Change – Findings:

Saudi Arabia has undergone significant changes in recent years, and these changes have especially had a profound impact on the lives of women in the country. Five Saudi-based female leaders, Lizzie Daniell, Mona Althagafi, Marina Krasnobrizhaya, Nada Al Marhoon, and Lana Dajani, share their experiences and insights into the evolving culture and business landscape of Saudi Arabia. Read more about the Trade Mission to Saudi Arabia for Women in Business.

Lana Dajani, International Markets Manager for the Department of Business and Trade, notes that there are many opportunities for women in Saudi Arabia, and that the country offers a good work-life balance, which is an attractive factor for the younger generation. She advises businesses to take advantage of the investor support provided by the British international markets team to establish themselves in the Kingdom.

Mona Althagafi, KSA Country Director for Serco Middle East, highlights the remarkable progress that women have made in the workforce in just a few short years. Women’s participation in the workforce has risen to 37%, and many of the obstacles that women once faced, such as the ban on driving and guardians permission, have been lifted. Althagafi advises businesses to ensure compliance with the law and to focus on the right activity to thrive in the market.

Senior Advisor for Arabian Enterprise Incubators (AEI), Lizzie Daniell arrived in Saudi Arabia in the early days of the country’s transformation, and notes that the change has been massive. While she initially faced a steep learning curve, she found that everyone was friendly and eager to connect. Lizzie encourages expats to embrace these connections and to be mindful of customs, which can be quite different from those in other parts of the world. She observes that there is great positivity and appetite for integration and progress in Saudi Arabia, and she was blessed to work with inspirational women over the years who were driving the change.

Marina Krasnobrizhaya, General Manager of the St. Regis Riyadh and the first female general manager in Saudi Arabia, is an advocate for women’s empowerment in the workforce. She believes that empowering women is crucial for setting an example for future generations and for the overall development of the country, emphasizing the importance of women taking leadership roles in their communities and in the workplace, and she encourages women to support each other in these efforts. She believes that these challenges can be overcome through education and raising awareness.

Managing Director of Elite Talents, Nada Al Marhoon, emphasizes that Vision 2030 empowers women in the workforce, especially in leadership roles. It is this vision that has paved the way for women to climb up the career ladder. Nada advises businesses to explore government initiatives that assist with Saudization. Some of them fund significant support to the workforce, including paying a portion of employees’ salaries for up to two years. She also cautions business owners to keep an eye on changing laws and regulations, especially with regards to Saudization, and to abide by the law to avoid the consequences.

The experiences and insights shared by these five women provide a glimpse into the changing culture and business landscape of Saudi Arabia. While there are challenges and obstacles to be navigated, the opportunities for progress and growth are significant. As Saudi Arabia continues to evolve, it will be important for expats and businesses to stay informed, compliant, and engaged with the local community.

The panel discussion was moderated by Helen Barrett, Partner at CBD Corporate Services.

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