Academics, experts consensus on keeping up with changes in Saudi labor market

Academics, experts consensus on keeping up with changes in Saudi labor market
Academics, experts consensus on keeping up with changes in Saudi labor market

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - RIYADH: An international philanthropic initiative aimed at boosting the representation of women in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields has expanded its reach to Saudi Arabia.

Global Engineer Girls, in collaboration with Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University and the Ministry of Investment, launched its transformative partnership in a bid to empower women and bridge the gap in engineering in the Kingdom.

The event, held in Riyadh on Tuesday, highlighted the importance of mentorship, access to opportunities and breaking gender stereotypes in traditionally male-dominated industries. It included the official signing of a memorandum of understanding for the project’s expansion into Saudi Arabia.

A group of 12 aspiring Saudi female student engineers shared their dreams and ambitions in being the first cohort on this joint program.

Speaking to Arab News on the sidelines of the launch, Ebru Ozdemir, chairwoman at Limak Group of Companies and GEG founder, said: “We started the Turkish woman engineers project nine years ago in Turkiye, and then we started to expand the countries that we work in. So, we expanded it to Kuwait and then North Macedonia and then Kosovo, and now we are working a lot in Saudi Arabia and in the engineering field.”

She added: “The same problem exists everywhere, all over the world, in different scales, that the women in STEM are not really many. And actually they are very good at engineering. We have great examples. The only thing that they need is a little bit of promotion.”

The GEG founder went on to explain that despite the evident talent among women in STEM fields, societal perceptions and familial expectations often deter them from pursuing careers in engineering. This perception, coupled with a lack of self-confidence among women, has contributed to an imbalance in the field.

“The most important thing that we have to get over or be successful against is the perception of the general ecosystem. Because of that perception women they don’t have self-confidence. So, if we can overcome these issues, which is the self-confidence and the perception, then we can be successful.

“But this is not a woman issue. So, to be able to get over this perception, we need men’s support. We get all the women talking all the time and so forth, but actually it’s more that men’s environments should accept women have the capability, have the talent to be an engineer,” she added.

In recognition of Saudi Arabia’s commitment to transformative change, the chair of the GEG advisory board, Ambassador Volkan Bozkır, told Arab News that the Kingdom with its ambitious Vision 2030 has set the stage for comprehensive societal reform, including initiatives to enhance the participation of women in various sectors, including engineering and technology.

He said: “I think Saudi Arabia is now one of the stars in the world; there’s a big attraction for Saudi Arabia for its visionary new projects, and also how Saudi Arabia is approaching to the role of women in economy in every day’s life.”

Bozkır said that the Global Engineer Girls project is also “activating in a way the energy here among the girls.”

The diplomat added that the initiative aligns seamlessly with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, particularly the goal of achieving gender equality by 2030.

“This Global Engineer Girls in Saudi Arabia actually fits exactly in achieving the goals of the UN for 2030. 2030 is also an important target for Saudi Arabia, I think many of the projects announced or planned are looking for 2030 as an accomplishment target. I’m happy to see that everything coincides, and we will work together and help the world with the new gender rules and having girls and women more in the system.”

One of the key speakers at the event, Shudufhadzo Musida, an entrepreneur, author, and UN Population Fund regional champion for East and Southern Africa, shared her personal story of growing up in a community where women’s empowerment was limited, and highlighted the impact of mentorship and access to opportunities in her own life.

Speaking to Arab News, she emphasized the significance of reframing sustainable development to include the empowerment of women and ensuring their active participation in economic decision-making processes.

She said the inclusion of women will not only promote gender equity and diversity in the field of engineering, but it’s also “going to create a new pathway for more women to come and say, I want to be a part of this, too, forming new dreams for women to say I want to do this, too.

“So, the inclusion is not just this moment, it’s going to create a whole new future for women, and it’s going to create a whole new gender-equal society.”

In a speech during the event, Prof. Areej Malibari, dean of PNU’s College of Engineering, highlighted the importance of sustained collaboration between academic institutions and government agencies, including addressing current and future skills required for industry participation effectively.
 

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