Saudi Arabia: Saudi women's firm helps others find employment in the kingdom

Arab News
As part of its initiative to promote job opportunities for Saudi women, a Riyadh-based women-only company is acting as an employment bureau for Saudi women.
“We launched this project to help qualified and skilled Saudi women find suitable career opportunities in the private sector in the Kingdom,” said Banan Abutair, chairperson of ECSA Hire and Higher, the Kingdom’s first-ever women’s employment bureau.
She added that women have always played a major role in the development of Saudi society. “We want to help them play an equally major role in the sustainable development of Saudi economy, which they have been deprived of in the past.”

The company maintains a databank comprising over 3,000 women, 70 percent of whom are Saudis. “Those registered with us are interested in finding suitable placements in jobs relating to administration, IT, marketing, accounts, customer relations, finance and call centers,” she said.

She recalled that last year, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah indicated that with the help of the Human Resources Development Fund around 200,000 Saudi women would be employed in various sectors in the Kingdom. “We are trying to fulfill the king’s expectations in our own modest way,” Abutair said.

The company, which has a registered office in the United Kingdom, will have an office in the Eastern Province to cover neighboring Bahrain during the second quarter of this year. Another branch will be opened in Jeddah at the end of 2007, she added.

Describing her company as a specialized headhunting agency, Abutair pointed out that ECSA stands for “Empowering Capabilities, Skills and Aptitudes.”

“We are in the final stages of completing a highly specialized online tool that would enable prospective jobseekers and employers to access our databank for their requirements,” she said.

Saima Sofi, executive director of ECSA, said that the company has found placements for over 200 women at companies such as Sama Airlines, Four Seasons Hotel, the World Trade Center and the Manhal Center in a very short period of time. “We are also the key recruiting agency for the Saudi Monetary Agency (SAMA) and ABB,” she added.

Speaking about employment prospects, Sofi said the most sought after fields for women include the IT, administration, finance, public relations, customer relations and marketing fields. “We are also planning to provide orientation and training program for those women who fall short of certain skills and experience,” she added.

“We are in the process of identifying key areas of skill and technique shortages and we will be employing the services of experts to develop customized and specifically tailored curricula that we will offer to job applicants and also to our client companies,” she added.

The executive director said the company had developed its various departments with expert consultants (women recruiters) who handle all types of placements for women job seekers. “We aim to become leaders in professional human resource providers within the Kingdom. Our main goal is to set the standards by which recruiters practice business in the Kingdom. We also aim to bring on board the highest level of professionalism that should be accepted by the private sector,” she said.

Speaking about the challenges of Saudization with regard to women, Saima said, “Often the client companies have very high expectations of the deliverables from the female staff they wish to employ. They expect certain levels of work experience, which cannot be available because the hiring market for women is still so young and often most of them shun the idea of hiring fully covered ladies.”

She said companies often fail to understand that there is little correlation between women who cover their face and their level of skill and productivity. “We find that some of the most able candidates on our database are covered ladies, but this is an obstacle that we cannot overcome with companies who are customer-facing establishments,” said Saima, adding that it was hard for them to stipulate ideas for the corporate sector.

“We face great issues with women who are perfect for the work environment, but cannot work in mixed environments. Finding women-only sections is not only difficult, but also it is fairly redundant since instructions must come from senior management of a company who generally tend to be men. Cultural acceptance from many levels will need to come into place before these areas of apprehension dissipate,” said Sofi.

14 April, 2007