Regional telco giant Saudi Telecom Company (STC) is rapidly increasing the number of women employed at the Riyadh-based firm.
At the start of 2016, STC employed only a handful of women. “Less than 10,” according to group CEO Eng Nasser Al-Nasser.
The headcount wasn’t unique to STC. Saudi Arabia ranked four countries from last place among 144 countries in the World Economic Forum’s 2016 Global Gender Gap study of how equally women participated in business, politics, health and education.
However, a series of rapid reforms in the country since, including the directive to allow women the right to drive, as well boosting the female workplace participation rate to 30% percent by 2030, is spurring changes across the economy, including at STC.
“In 2018 we have more than 200 Saudi female employees in various business segments in 42 cities in the Kingdom,” Al-Nasser told CEO Middle East in an interview this week.
“We just hired another 100 new female graduates this September as part of our ‘Talent Incubation’ programme and have also appointed our first female director.”
The change in working culture at one of Saudi Arabia’s largest organisations includes a range of initiatives to support “work agility”.
“We have recently introduced a telecommuting policy that allows people to work from home. We are also providing our female employees with a child care allowance as well as sponsoring female employees to get their driving licenses.
Changes at the organisation come at a time when it has been facing a number of external pressures. “Revenue-wise, a decline in unit prices, consumer spending, certain regulatory decisions, and the exodus of expatriates has put negatively impacted the industry’s top line,” said Nasser.
Revenues in the telecoms market in Saudi Arabia have declined by up to 4% in 2017, and Nasser expects that the market “will remain flat for the next 3 years.”
STC has also faced calls for cutting back on its organisational largesse by trimming from its nearly 17,000 strong workforce.
However improving profitability – the company’s latest half year results under Al-Nasser’s 6-month tenure show a 14 percent growth in net income – and finding “amazing female talent,” are encouraging signs enough for Al-Nasser to want to continue in investing in their development.
“People are amazed on how smoothly our female employees have become part of STC. We see a much more advancement in women handling key roles and responsibilities,” he said, “and all this is just a quick snapshot. There are more ways we are exploring to empower them.”