GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

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Title of Paper:
Game Changers: The Employment and Workplace Impact of Greater Female Inclusion into Private Sector Employment in Saudi Arabia
Paper Proposal Text :
Female participation in the formal labour markets of Saudi Arabia is amongst the lowest in the world. And yet, it is also increasing at an unprecedented rate with dramatic implications for the region’s workplaces, economy and society in general.

This paper presents findings from data collected from more than 50 private sector employers within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (including those based in Riyadh, Damman, Jeddah and elsewhere in the Kingdom) during 2013. Focusing on the employment of females makes increasing business sense in the light of the focus on achieving nationalization goals in particular. Saudi national women are a latent pool of talent and increasing their representation within organizations can significantly boost growth and expansion plans. This is further supported by macro conditions such as better levels of educational attainment amongst females, higher levels of unemployment, under-employment and arguably better soft-skills as compared to male counter-parts.

Nearly one billion women will enter the formal labour markets of the world economy within the next decade. This increased and extended participation of women in the workplace presents the single biggest opportunity to further enhance workplace productivity levels across the world and within the GCC. While the overall regional participation levels of women in paid employment are amongst the lowest in the world, they are increasing at a rate that is amongst the highest globally. In Saudi Arabia, there were less than 5% of women of working age in the labour force in 2000 and this has increased to just under 18% in 2013.

Impact on Migration and Employment

The on-going focus on increasing the employment of females in Saudi Arabia, and the accelerated focus on government programs such as Hafez and Nitiqat have accelerated decisions by the Saudi Government to contain and closely monitor the employment of expatriates within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

According to various government sources, the acceleration of pro-Saudisation policies and increasingly pro-feminisation policies is likely to continue, seriously impacting both new jobs (especially white-collar) for expatriates and also replacement of jobs.

We expect to see continuous actions and regulations with regards to female employment, including flexible work arrangements (tele-working, part-time working etc.), updating benefits including maternity and childcare, access to greater opportunities across a wider set of economic activities, employment in factories as well as deploying a stricter code of conduct with regards to safety, security and protection from harassment for the female workforce. We also expect to see pro-female quotas being mandated through future versions of the Nitaqat programme.

Sociocultural and economic reasons as well as the sheer determination of individual Saudi females to move things forward, make Saudi Arabia a region to watch closely as the employment of females within the private sector increases in the Kingdom.

A Business Case for the Greater Inclusion of Women: As Drivers of Growth, Partners in Development and Social Inclusion
 Economic Impetus: It is estimated that if the female workforce participation in Saudi Arabia was to rise to approx. 40%, it could increase the GDP by $17 billion per annum, and add $58 billion in revenues to Saudi companies as well as significant increases in productivity, engagement and innovation.

 Company Performance: Worldwide, studies have highlighted that large companies with women board members, outperformed those without female representation by 26% in terms of share price performance over the previous 6 years. Further, companies that have more female board members perform better than their male-dominated counterparts. On average, these companies outperform by 53% on return on equity, by 42% on return on sales, and by 66% on return on invested capital.

 Consumer Centricity: Another interesting fact is that women control nearly US$12 trillion of the overall US$18.4 trillion in consumer spending. Hence, the criticality to have females in your teams and organizations to gauge and understand consumer needs is absolutely crucial to create a culture of customer centricity.

 Other Talent Supply Factors:
o Unemployment and Under-Employment: There is a prevalence of higher levels of female unemployment in the region. In countries such as Saudi Arabia, as well as in Oman & Bahrain – there are also increasing economic drivers for females to work and support their households with dual incomes. Even from a purely economic perspective, inclusion of women will result in the attraction of an additional income within each household.
o Educational Attainment and Employability: Along with higher levels of educational attainment on average, our research also indicates that, on average, females also display higher levels of employability attributes and strengths. Compared to male colleagues, females report higher levels of empathy, work preparedness, achievement, accountability and drive towards their jobs. All of these aspects are highly desired by employers.

Key Findings:

The key findings from the survey showed a renewed interest by companies to hire females, in some part driven by the need to increase the overall proportion of Saudisation due to the Nitiqat policy mandate. For many leading employers, this has been identified as a core strategic talent priority, and they are looking at new, innovative and flexible approaches in terms of accelerating their feminization agendas.

a) 48% of participating organizations in Saudi Arabia indicated that the CEO and the Top Management are they key stakeholders supporting and driving diversity and inclusion at the workplace. This is a very positive trend considering that that globally, approximately 60% of organizations report that the CEO and Top Management were the main advocates of workplace diversity.
b) 70% of organizations clearly indicated that nationalization will remain a key priority for the year 2014.
c) 87% of employers surveyed as part of this research currently employed females within their organizations.
d) The overall female representation in the private sector for females is approximately 13% in Saudi Arabia. This represents data from various industries as provided by the participating organizations.
The research further highlighted the following representation for females in the Private Sector in Saudi Arabia, as split by level of seniority.
 Board level representation for females is currently around 15%.
 This is much lower for the C-Suite and Top Management level at 4%.
 Also, on average, 8% of middle management is female.
 Finally, on average, the representation of females in front-line positions is currently at approximately 14%.

This paper concludes with some practical recommendations to increase female representation within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and across the GCC and also discuss the impact of these changes on Saudi national men as well as the expatriate, migrant workers.


Key words: Female employability, labour market efficiency, workplace productivity, female inclusion, Saudi Arabia, private sector