In Saudi Arabia, Women are Making History

Today is March 1—and across the U.S., Americans are honoring Women’s History Month. With an eye to the accomplishments Saudi women have made to date, and the myriad of opportunities that lie ahead, America’s celebration resonates deeply among Saudi society, and Arabia Now staff.

Society in Transition

As we’ve reported time and again, Saudi women have made extraordinary strides across all pillars of the Kingdom’s society.

Across government, we’ve watched the record number of women (more than 970) run in the historic 2013 elections, and have since witnessed Princess Reema bint Bandar bin Sultan Al-Saud’s remarkable achievements to now head the Kingdom’s General Authority for Sports. Of late, we’ve seen legislative efforts enacted to spur the development of women’s gyms across the Kingdom. In 2016, the government sent four female athletes to the Rio Olympics. Four years prior, Sarah Attar and Wodan Shahrkhani were the first Saudi women in the history of the games.

Today, more Saudi women than ever before are breaking into male-dominated workforces. Since 2013, women have entered Saudi courts as the Kingdom has relaxed measures to broaden women’s access to law degrees. Jeddah-based lawyer Bayan Zahran represents the first Saudi woman to open a law firm in the Kingdom. Nermin Fawazi Sa’d, an engineer and entrepreneur, ranks as one of 100 Most Powerful Women by Forbes and Arabian Business. Rania Mahmoud Nashar, an anti-money laundering specialist, heads Samba Financial group—and Sarah Al-Suhaimi, chief executive of investment bank NCB Capital, was, most recently, named the Saudi Stock Exchange’s first-ever female chair.

But the business successes center not only on Saudi women at the top of the corporate ladder, but so too at the grassroots level. More and more local organizations are springing up to train hundreds of women to join an ever-expanding Saudi workforce. Already, Saudi Arabian women are working in the Kingdom’s pharmacies, airlines, energy, hospitality and sports sectors, among various other industries.

The cultural scene has also unleashed unprecedented opportunities as Saudi women continue to make history. The highly anticipated print Vogue Arabia, headed by Princess Deena Aljuhani Abdulaziz as its editor in chief, will launch spring 2017. From fashion to design and art, Saudi women are carving a new place in a rapidly transforming society.

We join the U.S. in celebrating women for the landmark inroads made, while acknowledging the milestones women have accomplished not only in America, but in Saudi Arabia and across the globe. Indeed, under Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, we are watching Saudi women define a new nation.

At Arabia Now, it has been with honor to cover these developments and report on the progress the Kingdom continues to make. Change is happening across Saudi Arabia. Stay tuned. We’ll be reporting along the way.