Labor consultant: Working women have a role to play
Muna Al-Madani is a consultant at the Ministry of Labor. She believes working women are just as important for the Kingdom as women who stay at home and finds it devastating that many women with academic degrees and immense potential are unable to find jobs.
Al-Madani obtained a bachelor’s degree in sociology from King Abdulaziz University in 1985. She then took a few years off to raise her two children. She eventually completed her master’s degree from Britain’s Nottingham University. She received an honorary degree for her research topic, Child Abuse in the British Muslim Community. At the time, Britain was promoting a no-discrimination system and found her research paper a breakthrough in what the system was trying to achieve. The Saudi ambassador in London offered her a job and presented her a certificate of appreciation in 1992 for being the first Saudi woman to work voluntarily in England.
Family commitments made it hard for her to work fulltime so she volunteered at Saudi clubs in the UK, helped build a mosque for the Muslim community there and supervised two summer camp programs for children in 1995.
After her return from England, Al-Madani worked as an educational counselor for orphanages at Albir Charity Organization for three months. Her next job was at Umm Al-Qura University in the Kingdom’s only community service department. When Ghazi Al-Gosaibi returned to Saudi Arabia after serving as Saudi ambassador to the United Kingdom and became the labor minister, he immediately recognized Al-Madani from her stay in England.
Al-Gosaibi established three female departments at the ministry and employed 30 women in Dammam, Riyadh, and Jeddah. Al-Madani was appointed as the co-manager of the female office in Jeddah.
During her 10-year tenure in the Ministry of Labor, Al-Madani took on many different positions from the head of inspections to the head of IT. She eventually became a consultant for the ministry’s branch in Riyadh.
In order to increase women’s participation in the job market, Al-Madani has fought to implement a project that allows women to work from home. “I receive many CVs with impressive qualifications. But oftentimes, women do not want to work in a mixed environment and that puts me in a difficult position because I have to find the right job for the candidate,” said Al-Madani.
“Women have greatly progressed from where they were around 30 years ago. Marriage was the only purpose and future a woman had during those times. However, women face many challenges even today.
“The private sector does not employ women in decision making positions, which brings up the question: Is this because women are not qualified for the position or is it due to the fact that traditions and cultural norms still oppose the idea? It is very important for women to understand that the position of a wife and a mother is her priority. She can work only if she can achieve a balance between the two,” she said.