Jeddah, Asharq Al-Awsat- The first Saudi forum for women was held in Jeddah on Wednesday to discuss the readiness of women to enter the labour market. Staffed exclusively by women, it was organized by the Arab Association for Human Resources in the western province, which hopes to prove that women can organize a conference by themselves, without any help from men in the planning or execution stages. Several working papers were presented, including a discussion on discrimination against women in leadership posts and the issues relating to women and employment.
Amal Sheera, assistant to the director for women affairs at the association, held a press conference on Monday where she discussed the role of women in Saudi society and the workplace. “Seventy-three percent of women in the labour market are not qualified to use a computer compared to forty-eight percent of the men. These statistics need to change, especially as we are currently living in the information age,” she said.
Whilst criticizing some husbands for relying on their wives’ salaries and deploring the lack of women in leading posts, Sheera said it was important to discuss the negative aspects of women joining the workplace, “We should not discuss the issue of women working until we are able to achieve a balance between a woman’s work and her home and family.”
Meanwhile, Jamil al Shahawy, member of the association’s board for the western province, said “Human resources is a field that suffers from a number of problems, both in the private and public sectors.” A solution requires several alliances between the sectors involved in human development, as well as time and effort. The current challenge in Saudi Arabia, he added, was to overcome obstacles and not merely give women the chance, as they are an essential part of society. These problems can be defeated, al Shahawy said, without breaking firmly-established religious and national beliefs.