ALWANE’s study earlier this yearin conjunction with Harvey Nichols, KPMG and Glowork discovered what Saudi women want from work opportunities in the retail industry and what’s really holding them back.

Results demonstrated that 42% accept the idea of women working in the retail sector, while 58% dismissed the idea completely.

“31% of female respondents highlighted lack of awareness of what the retail sector actually is as a main concern in working in the retail sector. Respondents noted that there are not any success stories in the region, let alone the country, to understand the type of career path they would be undertaking. Respondents added that the perception of the retail industry must change”  says the report.

What would solve the problem?

The majority (35%) said an awareness campaign to portray success stories as well as benefits of working in the retail sector would help.

Global brands and their marketing departments are best placed to do this as their international offices are well used to career development programs, having trained people to go all over the world and sell their goods.  A few of them are already working on training Saudis and developing their skills.

Al Naghi has taken its 12 year old distribution agreement with L’Oreal a step further and signed a joint venture which should create jobs for Saudi women in the cosmetics industry.

More Saudis have just completed a fast track training with Nestle in Riyadh. After completion of the programme, the graduates will be prepared to enter the Saudi workforce equipped with the skills necessary to take up a commercial career.

But more still needs to be done.

What happens after people graduate?

A Booz study earlier in 2012highlighted that many women graduated in humanities and that  they should not be confined to the traditional route of teaching.

“Graduates of history, geography, and Arabic department can work in the media, tourism, the municipalities and other government sectors that have started opening departments for women.”

In the UK and US, several private institutions in various industries have such well developed graduate training programs, that geography graduates can work in banking.

During the ALWANE summit in Jordan this month, the KSA chapter stated that many Saudi women hold bachelor degrees in Information Technology and Saudi Arabia is one of the highest smart application buying markets among Arab countries. Therefore, Saudi women can participate in this market, and create a local hub for IT development.

A new way of thinking

The need for more brands to impart their skills to Saudis is evident.  From IT and tech companies to fashion and cosmetics.  But should it be just a top down knowledge sharing activity? The Startup America Partnership found that “What entrepreneurs want is the company and support of other entrepreneurs who can help and understand their struggles.

This is what Startup America is now trying to become—the catalyst for a movement for entrepreneurs, by entrepreneurs. This is the path SUAP sees to persuading more Americans to start their own companies”

New Hierarchy

Perhaps the same can be said of upskilling. Maybe peers who have skills in other parts of the region can share knowledge with each other as effectively as a brand’s training program.  At Nabbesh we provide an early version of a skill sharing platform.  Many people have connected rapidly, within hours of posting.  In the future and as we build the technology, we might need to find innovative ways to help connect and sharing happen at bigger scales and at a faster rate, if p2p upskilling is to happen. We’re closely watching the scene and we’re positive about the future.

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