Eighty-two percent of women in Saudi Arabia plan to take up driving this year according to research by GulfTalent.
This will contribute to more women growing into senior roles traditionally dominated by men, many women upgrading to higher paying jobs further away from their homes, and many currently unemployed women getting the opportunity to work, according to the online recruitment firm.
Until last week, Saudi Arabia was the only country left in the world where women could not drive and families had to hire private chauffeurs for female relatives. The lifting of the decades-old ban was announced last September, with the first licenses issued to women earlier this month.
The survey predicts that driving will allow employed women to move to better matching and more lucrative jobs in other companies. Many of the survey respondents said that transport constraints had led them to settle for jobs with lower pay than their qualifications merited or unrelated to their interests and studies.
The same respondents said they will be looking for better opportunities as soon as they are able to drive.
Hala, a regional HR manager at a construction company in Dammam told GulfTalent: “Senior positions often involve working with employees in multiple offices across the region either within or outside the country, which was more difficult in the past without being able to drive. Now that women will be able to drive, more female candidates will likely be considered for senior roles that entail traveling to other offices.”
Mai, a project engineer based in Jeddah added: “Being able to drive will make me eligible for the position of project manager – as the role needs constantly moving between the office and project sites to supervise work.”
Sara, who holds a degree in computer science with six years’ work experience and is employed as a junior analyst in Jeddah, said: “I’ve had to settle for jobs with lower salaries than my educational qualifications merit, in order to stay close to home. Now I’ll be able to look for better employment.”
This view was echoed by several employers surveyed. One HR Manager based in Jeddah told GulfTalent: “We will now be able to hire more female staff for sales positions and other jobs requiring work outside the office.”
By 2020, an estimated three million women are forecast to be driving in Saudi Arabia, according to research by audit firm PwC. This will help realise the Saudi government’s Vision 2030 aim to raise women’s participation in the workforce from 22 percent to 30 percent.
GulfTalent’s research was based on an online survey of 400 Saudi women based in Saudi Arabia, interviews with 25 Saudi women, and senior executives of 10 employers active in Saudi Arabia. Female survey participants were aged 20 to 60, and included those already working as well as seeking employment.
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