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Saudi female business leaders inspire the future of entrepreneurship

By: Marwa Mahmoud

Family businesses constitute more than 90% of the private sector in the Gulf region, but since only 5% of them continue to be profitable by reaching the third generation of the family, it is a top priority for families and businesses as a whole to understand the causes of this phenomenon.

From this standpoint, the Saudi Vision 2030, which seeks to improve women’s contribution to the country’s economy, focuses on enabling family businesses to formulate effective strategies for career advancement, support women in their career advancement, and improve economic resilience.

The changing role of women in family businesses

By their nature, family businesses have always been an inclusive environment that provides women with opportunities for growth and advancement and enables them to balance their family responsibilities and fulfill their roles in the workplace.

With the goals and legislation set by the government to support women, the participation of women in the workplace has increased tremendously in the past few years in Saudi Arabia.

However, many women still face obstacles in their leadership roles, including a lack of opportunities, societal expectations, and an inability to access care for their children.

They also suffer from low salaries and compensation, and the lack of enough successful models for inspiring women into leadership positions.

In general, women all over the world are expected to be able to balance the responsibility of caring for children and managing the home on the one hand and meeting their job responsibilities in the workplace on the other.

These expectations pose a great challenge to women and a great obstacle to their advancement.

One of the possible solutions to this problem is to provide flexibility in work for women and allow them to work remotely or even reduce working hours.

38% of working women in Saudi Arabia said that this solution was pivotal in enabling them to advance in their work.

Similarly, childcare initiatives have been instrumental in helping women enter the workforce.

A 2018 Harvard University researcher reported that 65% of women were unable to find employment because they primarily focused on taking care of their families or were unable to find affordable care for their children.

Government initiatives had a very important role in solving the problem of providing care, especially the Qurra program, which is a development fund that provides assistance to cover the costs of childcare and thus enables Saudi women to achieve job stability.

Societal expectations have long had a severe impact on women’s ability to work, which has alienated many young women from the labor market to prevent their family members from working.

Over the past ten years, women no longer need approval to work in various fields such as retail, which has opened up broad career prospects for them and encouraged them to pursue their ambitions.

The importance of highlighting successful models of inspiring leaders in family businesses

One of the most important components of career ambition is having successful models that inspire the next generation of women in family businesses and encourage them to take up leadership positions.

25% of women indicated that they follow successful leadership models that inspire their ambition to succeed and advance in their careers.

Guidance, mentorship, and communication are key drivers of success, but unfortunately, they are not equally available to all women in the world.

A 2019 KPMG study of women in leadership also found that 67% of women gain leadership knowledge and information from other women.

Also, 82% of women believe that benefiting from the experiences of others may support their career advancement.

As more women enter the workforce, there is an urgent need to support outstanding women who have the potential for success to become inspiring mentors to others.

Kholoud Moussa, a partner with KPMG in Saudi Arabia, and the first Saudi partner in one of the four major companies in the country Commented on this.

She said, “With more women taking leadership positions in family businesses, we will get used to seeing women in high positions and this trend will extend to non-family businesses and allow other women to take leadership positions.”

Forward-looking, forward-thinking family businesses lead paths that embrace a culture of diversity and inclusion in which male leaders support their female co-workers with their care.

Leading family businesses, such as the private Saudi Nesma Company with a strong multi-sector business portfolio, consider diversity an essential part of their corporate governance framework and are benefiting from the effects and outcomes of this approach.

Noura Al-Turki, Vice President of Nesma, says: “Incorporating diversity into the corporate governance framework leads to independence, and diversity in thought, opinion, and experience across the entire board of directors improves business results, and we at our company are now embarking on this exciting journey and reaping its wonderful fruits and results. ».

Sustainability and succession planning

Having an element of diversity in family businesses that are usually passed down from management to the eldest son helps to plan succession based on competence and merit.

With the current strong focus in private sector companies on improving long-term sustainability, companies need to seize this unique opportunity and support and engage their talented employees to lead their companies’ continuity efforts.

Data from Ernst & Young and Kensaw State University indicate that preparing more women for leadership positions will lead to higher growth outcomes and help achieve long-term sustainability.

Companies benefit from a diverse and inclusive work environment in it on several levels, from increasing profitability to stimulating innovation and achieving long-term success.

The advancement of women in the Saudi workforce will have a significant impact on business performance, as it improves the long-term outcomes of family businesses, the economy, and society as a whole.

We are currently witnessing estimated government efforts that pave the way for enhancing women’s participation in the labor sector in line with Vision 2030.

Among these efforts are the Saudi Institutions Law and relevant initiatives such as the Women’s Support Fund for the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development.

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