Dammam, Asharq Al-Awsat—The Council of Saudi Chambers, one of the Kingdom’s leading business bodies, has launched a series of awards for businesswomen.
Kholoud Al-Tamimi, the director of the National Women’s Committee at the Saudi Council of Chambers, told Asharq Al-Awsat the main objectives of the awards were to support and encourage Saudi businesswomen to take a more prominent role in the Kingdom’s economy, in line with the objectives of the Committee.
She said the awards will highlight achievements in three categories: ‘Leading Young Businesswoman,’ ‘Leading Businesswoman,’ and ‘Productive Families.’
The ‘Leading Young Businesswoman’ award will go to any female entrepreneur between the ages of 18–35 for projects, in any business sector, which have had “sustainable effects on their region or at the national level,” according to the organizers.
Criteria for selecting nominees in the ‘Leading Businesswoman’ category include considerations of the level of risk in the nominated project, “the ability to lead, independence at work, and for the project to be characterized as creative and innovative.”
The ‘Productive Families’ category will be awarded to a nominee who is the main source of income in her family, and whose work or business project has led to a “significant change” in her and her family’s standard of living. The nominee must also have undertaken specialist training programs and participated in product promotion activities.
Projects nominated for all three awards must have been in operation for more than one year, except for the ‘Leading Young Businesswoman’ category which restricts the one-year proviso to the nominee’s leadership of the project.
There have been a number of recent awards and initiatives for female entrepreneurs in the Kingdom, but Tamimi claims that the new awards will be unique. “There are no awards in Saudi Arabia which cover these three categories [businesswoman, young businesswoman, productive families], and normally these categories are not highlighted sufficiently.”
She said all nominations would be submitted electronically and that no preference would be given to particular geographic regions within the Kingdom. “We focused on publicizing the electronic link for the awards through the Council of Saudi Chambers, in addition to contacting the relevant authorities in an official capacity,” she said, adding that this was to ensure the participation of the largest number of women possible.
The jury will not include members of the Council, however, in order “to ensure the awards are unbiased,” she said.
This comes as the World Bank recently estimated that the wealth held by Saudi businesswomen in local banks had reached 16 billion US dollars, with funds in cash totaling 12 billion dollars.
A recent report issued by the London-based Shari’a-compliant bank, Gatehouse, said the volume of funds held by women in the Gulf region was estimated at 300 billion dollars, with Saudi women accounting for almost a third of this total. This included deposits in family companies, funds tied in real estate, and those deposited in bank accounts.
Nominations for the awards will closed on September 10. Results will be announced in 2015 to coincide with the Second National Forum.