Saudi businesswomen call for level-playing field

In this file picture, a Saudi businesswoman is seen with fellow members of the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industries (JCCI). Saudi businesswomen are seeking a regulatory level playing field so that they can compete with male businessmen.

In this file picture, a Saudi businesswoman is seen with fellow members of the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industries (JCCI). Saudi businesswomen are seeking a regulatory level playing field so that they can compete with male businessmen.

Saudi businesswomen here have called on government to level the regulatory playing field with men so that they can grow their enterprises.

Foaz Al-Eid, a businesswoman, said the greatest challenge they face concerns their rights, in comparison to the scope given to businessmen in Saudi Arabia.

Regulations of the Ministry of Trade and Industry have also constrained them, she said. These include finding workers for their businesses, and the lack of professionalism by officials in dealing with entrepreneurs.

She said women are becoming involved in various sectors of the economy including the stock market, wholesale industry, fine arts, education and training, engineering, construction, real estate, and marketing.

Hanadi Ibrahim, a businesswoman, said that men continue to have the upper hand in Saudi society, despite businesswomen proving they are equally capable as leaders. Many have become successful because of support from their fathers, brothers and husbands.

She said men still dominate some industries but women have recently become more active in challenging perceptions and cultural expectations.

Ibrahim said that women are not fully aware of their rights, but praised government for the changes introduced in recent years, such as the abolition of the requirement that they require male legal representatives and a male guardian to travel. She believes these changes have helped businesswomen develop their businesses.

Ibrahim Eissa, a legal adviser, said the Ministry of Trade and Industry requires businesswomen to fulfill certain criteria to run government projects. These requirements are available online.

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