Saudi women build careers in construction industry
More than 36 percent of all local businesswomen work as contractors in the field, with women-owned companies making up 4.3 percent of private sector firms, according to 2010 statistics.
Fawzia Al-Kerri, who is based in the Eastern Province, is the first Saudi woman to have registered a contracting business.
She told Arab News recently that many people now want to invest in her business.
Al-Kerri is proud to have challenged local traditions and started an independent firm.
She benefited from a government decision in 2008 allowing women to obtain contracting licenses.
She opened up her business that year and started out by building a hotel in Dammam.
With a background in art and design, Al-Kerri also provides significant input into exterior and interior designs of her projects.
She was not successful in winning a seat on the board of the Eastern Province Chamber of Commerce and Industry, but this has not deterred her from following her dreams and tackling large projects.
“I’m nicknamed the contracting ambassador,” she told Arab News.
“I am not afraid to compete with men.”
Al-Kerri has urged stakeholders in the industry to trust small companies, and also appealed to the government to ease licensing procedures.
Al-Kerri said businesswomen should form an organization to promote their interests.
“The aim would be to share experiences and discuss new projects and issues facing women.”
She, however, said it is much easier for women to operate in the industry today.
“Women don’t need an agent in most cases, particularly now that many government bodies have women departments to handle all the contracting procedures,” she said.
Businesswoman Noura Fawz told Arab News recently that women have become competitive in the industry.
“We are trusted more than men and have proven our ability to meet deadlines.”
More women are likely to become involved in industrial projects because of the feminization taking place in the sector, she said.
She said the business is rewarding because of the “high profits.”
Some economists have estimated returns can be as high as 30 percent.
Maha Samman, a trainer certified by the Gulf Council for Human Development, said there should be more training for women entering the industry because they “need guidance as newbies.”
Economist Mohammed Al-Wazeer praised government for opening up the business world to women.
“Women have been able to branch out, grow their small enterprises into medium-sized businesses and prove themselves.” Many have successfully made the transition from the beauty industry into construction, he said.