DUBAI: Every year, more Saudi women are joining the Kingdom’s workforce in a host of industries long dominated by men, largely thanks to reforms introduced under the Vision 2030 reform programme.
The Vision 2030 reform program was launched in 2017 to help diversify Saudi Arabia’s economy away from oil by harnessing the energy and ideas of the Kingdom’s youth, especially its long underrepresented women.
To this end, the Kingdom has introduced legislation that prevents gender discrimination in wages, occupations and working hours, and allows women to start businesses without obtaining prior consent. She has also launched leadership training programs aimed at increasing the number of women in leadership positions.
Since the June 2020 launch of Amazon.sa, an online store dedicated to customers in Saudi Arabia, Amazon has launched a wave of hiring, recruiting young Saudis to help facilitate and expand its delivery logistics network at the level local.
More recently, Amazon recruiters have targeted Saudi women to manage operations in the Kingdom, in line with the government’s drive to Saudi its workforce and empower women.
The American multinational best known for its e-commerce platforms and more recently for its forays into cloud computing, digital streaming and artificial intelligence is one of the most valuable and recognized brands in the world today.
The Amazon empire was built on the back of a streamlined global logistics network, made up of legions of employees based in fulfillment centers around the world.
Amazon’s latest Saudi hiring program was launched in March this year to create opportunities for women in collaboration with the company’s delivery service partners.
“The main challenge is the idea that these jobs are for men,” Eman Al-Enezi, the first female Saudi delivery associate at Amazon KSA, told Arab News. “I’m proud to break that misconception and prove that women are just as capable in this field.”
Amazon says it sparked strong interest among women seeking work in the logistics industry when it launched its recruitment program in Riyadh, Jeddah, Abha and Dammam last year.
In response to this demand, according to the company, the program this year is offering expanded opportunities for female delivery workers associated with Jazan, Al-Qassim, Makkah, Madinah and Al-Hofuf.
Al-Enezi says the program has been very rewarding and hopes more Saudi women will consider a career in logistics.
“Since joining the company, I have been impressed with the efforts made to keep me safe and comfortable, and appreciate the flexibility my role offers,” she said.
“Having been with Amazon for a while now, I’ve witnessed firsthand the positive impact of the company’s delivery associate program.
“My colleagues are adapting well to their new work environment and are happy to be part of a dynamic organization that puts their needs first.
Amazon says it is proud to have fulfilled its commitment to diversity in the workplace by creating jobs for Saudi women.
“At Amazon, we have always believed strongly that diversity opens up new opportunities,” Prashant Saran, chief operating officer for Amazon Middle East and North Africa, told Arab News.
“These, in turn, allow us to harness the power of innovation and find new ways to better meet the changing needs of our customers. We are actively trying to break down barriers in an industry traditionally considered male-dominated, not just in Saudi Arabia, but around the world.
“We are proud to partner with local businesses across the country to help level the playing field and create opportunities for talented women to build successful careers in a forward-looking industry.
“This program is fully aligned with Amazon’s global commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, while supporting the goals of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 national transformation strategy.”
According to Saran, Amazon is working directly with its delivery service partners to provide training aimed at helping female delivery workers balance their individual needs, using their feedback to tailor the job to their lifestyle.
“It allows us to tailor the program to their needs in real time,” Saran said. “For example, we have taken a flexible approach to working hours, and affected routes include deliveries to public places, namely universities, hospitals, compounds and schools.”
Cutting-edge digital technologies and shop floor automation have transformed the logistics industry in recent years, making careers in the sector accessible to people of all backgrounds and abilities.
However, it is changing social attitudes towards women in the workplace and changes in the legal framework of Middle Eastern societies that have unleashed their pent-up potential.
“Here in MENA, the past few years have brought unprecedented transformative change,” Saran said. “In today’s Saudi Arabia, women hold leadership positions and exercise the highest levels of authority in business and government.”
Empowering women is high on the Saudi government’s agenda, with full support from the private sector. “By maintaining the momentum of these efforts, we can help accelerate the speed of change even further,” Saran said.
Indeed, while a diverse and inclusive culture is essential to recruiting and retaining women, Saran believes it is equally important to create a clear path for them to progress and reach their full potential.
“Increased flexibility, mentorship programs and leadership training can all help ensure that female employees feel valued, engaged and motivated to stay on a leadership path,” he said.
“With this goal in mind, it is important to foster a corporate culture that is inclusive, fair and equitable, and that empowers Saudi women to successfully develop their careers. It is also vital for organizations to assess the diversity of their boards and management teams.”
In line with Saudi government priorities, Amazon says it has launched its own inclusive leadership training programs to help ensure a gender-balanced talent pool.
From recruitment and retention to developing leaders, according to the company, efforts are made to ensure a diverse and inclusive workplace where women feel comfortable and empowered to aspire to leadership roles.
“Seeing women succeed as leaders inspires and motivates other female employees,” said Saran. “These women, in turn, act as role models and mentors to shape future leaders within organizations.”
Amazon is not alone. Many other private sector entities prioritize the promotion of women to leadership positions.
“What Amazon is doing is great and I predict we will see similar initiatives coming from the private sector this year, in support of the Saudi national transformation journey,” said Mona Althagafi, Serco Middle East country director for the Saudi Arabia, at Arab News.
“As leaders of this country, it’s up to us to be the change. We cannot sit idly by and hope for gender equality to happen. We must be the driving force. »
Like Amazon, Serco’s emphasis on diversity in its own talent acquisition and development processes has increased female representation on its leadership team to 50%. Additionally, approximately 30% of its extended management team is represented by women.
“In 2020, we had no female representation in senior operational positions and decided to change that narrative,” Althagafi said.
These incentives seem to be working. A recent survey by Gartner, an American technology research and consulting firm, found that 2021 saw the highest proportion of women in the global supply chain workforce in the past five years.
These rising trends portend a bright future for both the Saudi e-commerce logistics industry and the working lives of Saudi women.
“Amazon’s ambition to be a great place to work has reinforced our resolve to create the best possible work environments for women,” Saran said.
“Our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion resonates throughout the organization and we will continue to seek new ways to empower our female employees in Saudi Arabia and around the world.”
For Al-Enezi, the new recruit of Amazon, everything seems possible.
“We are grateful for this opportunity to break down barriers for Saudi women, which is an important step towards gender equality in the industry,” she said.
“The pace of change has been remarkable, and it’s inspiring to be a part of it.”