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Transport issues cripple female tech staff
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 18 - 02 - 2015

Saudi women IT graduates must pay drivers to get them to and from work. This puts them at a serious financial disadvantage compared to their male counterparts – Saudi and non-Saudi.
Molouk Y. Ba-Isa
Saudi Gazette


The next phase of the Saudization program is about to be enforced with Saudi hiring quotas for private businesses increasing. While it's clear that the number of employed Saudi men is rapidly rising, Saudi women's unemployment is still stubbornly high.
Some reports blame a lack of suitable jobs or unacceptable work environments for the high unemployment rates among women. It's surprising that other plausible reasons are not mentioned more often, too.
Consider the resignation letter submitted by a Saudi woman to an information technology (IT) company in Al Khobar:
“After careful thought and consideration, I've come to the decision to leave for a number of reasons, the most prominent of which is the following:
*I've had a number of difficulties concerning my transportation, and as a result will not be able to afford it as more than half my salary both now and in the upcoming future will be consumed by the need for a driver. *There are circumstances beyond my control that make it far more difficult than it should be to continue working.
I am honored by the chance and the opportunity you've provided me. I humbly resign with the hope that our relationship will not be damaged as a result.”
The Saudi woman, a new computer science graduate, had joined a private Saudi company in a six-month training program for fresh graduates. The program aimed to give her the hands-on experience in IT networking that she had not received at university.
For the first two months that the Saudi woman engineer was at the private Saudi IT firm, they would gain nothing at all by her being there. She would not be registered for GOSI and their staff would pour time into her training. She would study online courses provided by their international partners as well as working on her communication skills. Only after her second month as a trainee was completed, would she be registered as an employee of the company. In those first two months the company expected to invest over SR12,000, which included actual cash paid to the trainee plus the cost of their staff engineers' time. In future months that massive investment would continue as she would not be able to handle tasks without supervision for at least six months.
If she were a man, the trainee engineer would have been able to drive her own car back and forth to the company. Being a woman, the Saudi engineer had to pay for a driver. With a commute of 150 kilometers round trip daily, she was being charged by private drivers a minimum of SR2,000 monthly for transportation.
Difficult as well, was that when she arrived at home, the Saudi woman trainee engineer was expected to help with her younger siblings. In her family's opinion, her training ended at the workplace. They did not care that since the courses were online, as well as some of the lab experiences, that she could review and prepare for the next day's topics anywhere. There were meals to prepare, children's homework to review and social functions to attend. They had tolerated four years at university, but enough was enough.
With a shortage of Saudi engineers in the market, the difficulty in hiring Saudi women engineers due to their transportation and family issues is having a serious impact on private IT companies as they face increasing Saudization quotas. The transportation issue for women is one that the government should have solved long ago. Since this issue wasn't solved, then the government should offer transportation subsidies to private companies that employ women – perhaps SR500 monthly per female staff member to help defer the cost of the company providing them with transportation. Alternatively, Saudi women computer science and engineering graduates could be counted as double their male counterparts under Saudization, to enable companies to pay them more, so that transport costs weren't such a financial burden.
Additionally, conversations need to take place about the work environment after university graduation. Believing that private IT companies should tailor their working hours to a population that is demanding a five or six hour work day is unrealistic. However, a productive 48 hour work week is also unrealistic. If the government immediately began mandating that all full-time employees in Saudi Arabia, including government staff and the education sector, actually work eight hours per day, society would soon see this as the norm and families would adjust their expectations.


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