The majority of Saudi women believe that the biggest obstacle for their progress in professional settings is that they are viewed as lacking the necessary skills to succeed.
Although 60 percent of Saudi women and professional recruiters agree that significant progress has been made towards achieving the kingdom’s vision to increase women’s participation in the workforce, 52 percent of women still feel perceived by employers as unqualified, new research by LinkedIn has revealed.
Despite progress, 37 percent of women in the kingdom also believe employers still need to do more to hire them in key roles.
“In this new era, creating a skilled and balanced workforce can only be achieved through collaborative actions from both sides [employers and Saudi women]," Reem Mohamed, head of public sector for Saudi Arabia at LinkedIn, said in a statement.
"[Women] can start to change thisnarrative, and the Kingdom can thrive by creating a more productive and creative workforce," she said.
Young Saudi women are more educated than men
Young Saudi women are actually more likely to be highly educated than their male counterparts.
According to a 2016 report by the Pew Research Center, about 35 percent of young Saudi women (aged 25-34) have gone on to attend higher education (or education beyond high school). Among young men in the kingdom, just 28 percent had continued their studies after high school.
The data for that report was compiled from 2010 statistics. Since then, if anything, even higher percentages of young women and men have gone on to attend university.
Among Saudi women who use LinkedIn, 63 percent have completed bachelor's degrees, while more than 17 percent have completed have finished master's degrees.
With more and more women attending universities inside the kingdom and abroad, Saudi Arabia is also working hard at increasing equal opportunities in the workplace. By 2030, the kingdom aims to increase women's overall participation in the workforce from 22 percent, to 30 percent or higher.
More women in the workplace would be a "win" for the kingdom
"A lot is being done in Saudi Arabia to empower women. Over the coming few years, it is crucial that we continue to take positive actions to increase women’s role in major industries such as science and technology," Dr. Hayat Sindi, member of the consultative assembly of Saudi Arabia, member of the advisory board of the UN Secretary-General and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, said.
"We also need to continue extending our support to more women professionals to help transform them into leaders in their respective fields through providing the courses and education needed. This will help unleash women’s potential faster and would be a win for society," Sindi added.
Things are already changing rapidly. Last summer, figures by the kingdom's Ministry of Labor and Social Development revealed that women's participation in the workforce had increased by 130 percent over the last four years.
Saudi women already have a big impact on the economy
Although there is just now a massive push to get women involved in the nation's workforce, Saudi women have long been a major force in the kingdom's economy.
Last year, Saudi daily Okaz reported that 40 percent of the private wealth in the country is in women's hands, and Saudi women own 15 thousand commercial institutions.
Saudi women have particularly made huge strides in the field of entrepreneurship. According to statistics from Al-Sayedah Khadijah Bint Khuwailid Businesswomen’s Center released in late 2015, 63 percent of Saudi women managed – sometimes unregistered – yet successful businesses.