A Saudi woman has been appointed as first female head of Saudi Arabia’s stock exchange

In a step towards gender equality, a woman has been hired to head up the Saudi stock exchange for the first time ever.

Sarah Al Suhaimi, who serves currently as NCB Capital Co’s CEO was announced on Thursday, February 16 as the new chair of Saudi Arabia’s bourse, the Tawadul, which is the region’s largest.

Alongside her new appointment as chair of the Tawadul, Al Suhaimi is expected to keep her position at NCB Capital, the investment banking unit of National Commercial Bank.

Al Suhaimi’s appointment is significant in a country where the female unemployment rate is more than 34 per cent, and women are prohibited from driving, competing freely in sports, travelling outside the country or marrying without a guardian’s consent and more.

A step in the right direction…

It’s been less than a month since Saudi Arabia held its first ever Women’s Day event in the capital of Riyadh.

The three-day gathering, which took place from February 1 to 4 at the King Fahd Cultural Centre featured talks from women’s right to drive advocates, as well as other legal rights for women including freedom of guardianship.

Females from the Saudi royal family also took part in panel discussions, with Princess Al-Jawhara bint Fahad Al-Saud holding a talk on women’s roles in education.

Princess Reemar bint Bandar bin Sultan also spoke on the importance of sports in the lives of Saudi women.

“Saudi Arabia wants to celebrate the Saudi woman and her successful role, and remind people of her achievements in education, culture, medicine, literature and other areas,” general supervisor, King Fahd Cultural Centre, Mohammed Al Saif told Arab News. 

Despite women’s rights being a controversial topic in the ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia, Al Saif said there were no attempts to stop the event by any party.

The Saudi government’s plans by 2030

The Saudi government have previously mentioned their intention to increase the number of women in the Saudi workforce.

As part of the nation’s Vision 2030, its post-oil economy plans, Saudi Arabia looks set to undergo several reforms when it comes to women’s rights.

A ban on women voting or taking part in elections was lifted in 2015, and in 2016 the Saudi religious police, the “mutawa”, were stripped of their power to chase suspects or arrest them.

Several prominent figures have called for the removal of the driving ban, including Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, who posted an open letter on his Twitter account in November last year.

Plans are also being imposed to increase the percentage of women in the Saudi workforce from 23 per cent to 28 per cent by 2020.

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