Breaking down barriers to women’s employment in KSA tourism industry

Breaking down barriers to women’s employment in KSA tourism industry
Breaking down barriers to women’s employment in KSA tourism industry

We show you our most important and recent visitors news details Breaking down barriers to women’s employment in KSA tourism industry in the following article

Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - By Rafiah Yahya Almathami

The highly visible increase in female employment in the Kingdom has been beyond what anyone thought was possible. Saudi women are entering roles that were unthinkable for women only months earlier. The majority of Saudis are proud and excited.

The hugely trending image of a female Royal Guard protecting the door of the nation’s sovereignty last week was a notable example. Only three years ago, the same excitement was exhibited when women were depicted in mundane roles.

While it appears that barriers to female employment in Saudi Arabia were only in the minds of its people, some barriers still exist behind the scenes. In the field of tourism, research is being conducted to identify and analyze these barriers so that effective actions can be taken to pave the way for more women to join the workforce.

Under Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia has an ambitious plan to increase the number of tourists from 15 million in 2018 to 100 million in 2030. To achieve this, the number of employees in the tourism industry will need to triple.

Given the government's “Saudization” directive, Saudi women will need to join the industry to realize those numbers. But encouraging women into the industry is not a battle that Saudi Arabia is fighting alone.

Globally women are well represented in tourism but typically in low paying and low-ranking roles, making tourism an unenticing career choice for women coming out of school. In order to change this, the industry will need to break down the barriers preventing Saudi women from rising through the ranks.

Initial research, undertaken by Australia’s Griffith and Queensland Universities that included female employees and male policymakers, identified three key barriers to women in Saudi tourism. Not surprisingly, they are the same three barriers facing women around the world in any male-dominated industry: cultural perceptions, work-life balance and the “Old Boys Network”.

However, each of these barriers has its uniquely Saudi construct, such as the “Old Boys Network”. Known as Wasta, the Saudi “Old Boys Network” is far more complex and includes friends, family and tribes. Addressing the constructs of such barriers, will allow targeted strategies and policies to be put in place to recruit women into the industry and retain them.

The government has already made progress towards breaking down the barriers, however, equivalent change is needed in private industry. The Griffith University research data suggests that women are confident the government is driving change, but the wider community is not proactively changing.

It may be that private industry is more sensitive to public sentiment reflecting those Saudis who are wary of change. The benefits of attracting women to the workforce are recognized globally. A company that makes it their policy to address barriers to female employment will double their potential employment pool and lure in the best in the industry.

While there has been a rapid increase in female employment in Saudi Arabia, Saudi women seeking a career in tourism are facing the global barriers facing all women. Saudi Arabia cannot expect to achieve an equally rapid increase in the number of women in high-ranking roles in the industry without the community and private industry proactively breaking down these barriers.

Achieving this goal will require further research to understand the nature of these barriers so that effective strategies and policies can be built and implemented.

— The author is a PhD candidate in The University of Queensland – Australia. She can be reached at Email: [email protected]; Twitter: @Rafiah2030


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