A new joint report by Accenture and Alnahda Society, a non-profit organisation dedicated to the socio-economic empowerment of women, reveals that building a more comprehensive culture of equality in Saudi Arabian organisations can foster innovation and boost economic growth.
Launched during a joint forum between Accenture and the Women 20 (W20), an official G20 policy recommendation engagement group, the ‘Women in the KSA Workforce’ report offers guidelines for companies in Saudi Arabia to build healthy work environments that can help unleash the enormous potential of women in the workplace – a key objective of the Saudi Vision 2030.
Over the past three years, Accenture has surveyed over 70,000 professionals worldwide in its ‘Getting to Equal’ research series to identify —and quantify the strength of—the factors positively and significantly correlated with women advancing and thriving in the workplace. This report also builds on Alnahda’s ongoing Takafu study, which focuses on equal opportunity in the private sector. Through analysis of data from the General Organization of Social Insurance and surveys of firms and employees across industries and firm sizes, Takafu aims to identify the determinants affecting women’s participation, career progression, and compensation.
Khaled Al-Dhaher, Accenture’s country managing director for Saudi Arabia, said: “In Saudi Arabia, a critical starting point for the career advancement of women is at the top. Our research concludes that a positive tone from the top of the organisation goes a long way in setting out both the moral and commercial case for gender equality. Ultimately, a positive workplace culture facilitates a shift in the collective corporate mindset – and in turn, enables a resilient economy that is less dependent on oil and more reliant on a young and emerging generation ready to seize the limitless opportunities of the future.”
In the top 10% of most equal Saudi organisations, where more of these factors are present:
- Female employees’ sense of ambition and confidence is 23% higher than average. They are 62% more likely to advance in their careers to the managerial level and beyond.
- The innovation mindset of all employees in these leading ‘equal’ Saudi organisations is 50% higher than among their peers in other organisations;
- Creative potential is also notably higher, which could add over US$400 billion to the Saudi GDP by 2030.
Jawaher Al Sudairy, Director of Alnahda Center for Research, said: “The launch of the Takafu initiative coincided with the announcement of a series of regulatory reforms that simultaneously removed structural biases and instituted safeguards to protect women and promote their advancements, such as the enforcement of equal wages and introduction of the anti-harassment law. Hence, the challenge today is less about legal barriers and more about addressing practices and encouraging a work culture underpinned by equal opportunity.”
Helping Saudi Women Thrive in the Workplace
The report recognises the importance of bringing more women into the country’s workforce and empowering them to make meaningful contributions to improve the resilience of the national economy. It also identifies five cultural actions for Saudi companies to adopt and help close perception gaps, as well as drive progress toward an equal culture:
- Elevating female leaders in the corporate world
- Safeguarding against discrimination and harassment
- Offering greater workday flexibility
- Enhancing parental leave
- Investing in targeted training.
Over the past decade, following the government’s introduction of a range of women-friendly policies, Saudi women’s participation in the country’s workforce has grown. However, there is still much to be achieved to bring them on par with their counterparts worldwide.