Complex Made Simple

Saudi Princess at WEF: “I’m a Saudi Woman, and I am equal to men”

In 1848, a group of women gathered in New York to discuss the problem of women’s rights.

Feminism in China started in the 20th century with the Chinese Revolution in 1911.

Saudi is witnessing its own version of women’s lib at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, although efforts at liberating the female gender have began in unrest since Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s began driving the Kingdom into the future with Vision 2030.

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Saudi’s path to gender equality is a problem still facing every nation in the world today, but a Saudi princess put it all in perspective.

“I am, therefore I exist”

Princess Reema bint Bandar’s intervention on gender equality caught some observers by surprise and the world listened.

Bandar emphasized the importance of tackling gender equality in Saudi Arabia to achieve economic change in the kingdom.

She was quoted by Arab news as saying that economic change should not be the only reason behind giving a bigger role for women.

“Sometimes economic factors drive it, like sometimes you need the money so you let your daughter go to work,” she said.

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“That was our reality perhaps five years ago, but today the mind shift necessary is: There’s value in this woman, there’s value in her contribution to the community, there’s value in her voice and the decisions she helps make, for a more balanced economy and a more balanced society.”

Bandar added: “Today, we’re being given the opportunity and platform to be more present and more relevant.”

But Bandar also criticized the fact that skilled Saudi women are not getting the career opportunities they deserve.

“These are women who are already in the Shoura Council, already in the municipalities, already have PhDs, that took more work and longer than the time I’ve been alive. It is sad for me that those women are not showcased. I really hope you’ll take the opportunity to see that they do exist,” she said.

The world is grappling with similar issues

Gender inequality worsening

Gender equality was the focus topic at the WEF this year in Davos with valuable comments from prominent figures and leaders such as Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Princess Reema bint Bandar and others.

Despite the fact that the WEF’s annual gathering has all-female co-chairs, in an attempt to increase awareness of gender inequality, only one in five of those who are attending the forum this year are women.

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In fact, WEF’s annual gender gap report at the end of last year calculated that the gulf between male and female opportunity had widened for first time since it started gathering data in 2006.

Facts about hiring women

According to the Guardian, Trudeau has challenged leaders of the world’s biggest corporations to hire more women while warning that the current adopted approach to tackling inequality would lead to failure for everyone.

Trudeau said hiring, promoting and retaining more women is key to narrowing the huge gap between rich and poor, as reported by the Guardian.

“Employing more women was the smart thing to do. It would lead to a greater diversity of ideas, more innovation and fewer disputes,” he said.

Meanwhile, Sharon Burrow, head of the International Trades Union Confederation,  was quoted as saying that that progress on equality between the sexes has stalled.

“Most business leaders talk about it but don’t do anything to tackle the bias within their companies. We continue to pay women less than men, we continue to place women in insecure work. The rules have to change,” she told ITV News.

Robert Smith, founder and CEO Vista Equity made the case for why ignoring half the population is not a particularly savvy approach.

“Success will be defined by who has the smartest people tackling the most important problems,” he said.

“If you leave out half the population, you are sorely mistaken,” he added.

Colder countries warming to gender parity

The top 3 countries in the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) “Global Gender Gap Report 2017,” which benchmarked 144 countries on their progress towards gender parity, were the freezing cold nations of Iceland, Norway and Finland.

The Middle East came last, with the GCC fairing very poorly, including the UAE at 120th position, Saudi Arabia at 138th and Qatar at 130th.

The WEF said that Saudi Arabia re-closed its gender gap in enrolment in primary education and witnessed some progress in gender parity for professional and technical workers. However, it also experienced a modest decline in wage equality for similar work and women’s share of estimated earned income.