Watch out glass ceilings, Hind Al Zahid is coming for you.
We spoke to Hind Al Zahid, the first Saudi woman to work as an executive director and member of Dammam Airports, about her personal life, professional journey, future goals and the position of women in the Saudi workforce.
Tell us about yourself.
I’m a wife, mother of two and a businesswoman. Beside my work as an executive director and member of Dammam Airports, I’m the head of the Businesswomen Center in The Eastern Province Chamber of Commerce and Industry (EPCCI), an advisory member in the King Faisal University and Imam ibn Abdulrahman University advisory boards, a Steering Committee member for Women’s Employment and a co-founder of Zoha Arabia Co., a retail company based in Khobar.
I hold a BA in English literature from Imam ibn Abdulrahman University and an MBA from Gulf University in Bahrain.
What is the biggest obstacle facing Saudi women in labor?
It’s the unequal opportunities in the workplace, also known as the “glass-ceiling” effect, which prevents women from obtaining promotions and upper-level positions. This is not an institutional problem because, as of 2006, the law had been very clear in allowing equal opportunities. However, it’s the stereotypic assumptions that need to change; the ones that perceive women as unfit for leadership roles.
My mission is to change that. I aim to empower women and to give them those opportunities.
What could be done to solve this issue?
I believe in implementing a top-down approach which simply puts women in places of power to press for change that empower women and advance their rights. Thankfully, our country is extremely supportive. Vision 2030 gives a significant emphasis to the Saudi woman and believe in her abilities and her leading role in developmental changes.
On a larger scale, I strongly believe in establishing specialized institutions that ensure decent work opportunities for women and protect their rights as workers. I hope that one day we can establish a Ministry of Women and Family Affairs or a Supreme Council for Women.
What do you think of the current status and conditions of Saudi working women?
There’s no doubt that it’s improved a lot and I’m very proud to have witnessed and even been part of some of these changes. In my job with EPCCI, we were involved in changing many of the labor laws.
For instance: previously, the law required women business owners to always have a male manager running things. Now women can solely and completely run their own business. Also, we helped in granting official beauty salons licenses where previously no such license existed; instead they had been operating under tailoring licenses. Official licensing is important to increase the quality of the offered services, promote healthy competition and allow better monitoring.
So, what’s the secret to your success?
Knowing my mission in life: Women empowerment.
Every one of us has their own mission. Everyone is put on earth to deliver a message and fulfill a purpose. Know what wakes you up thinking about every day and pursue it unwaveringly.
What helps you recharge outside of work?
I slow down, stay in the moment and enjoy the simple things in life, like the taste of a good cup of coffee or the smell of a fragrant flower.
I also have an early morning ritual where I wake up at 5 a.m. every day and walk for an hour. This clears my mind and sets me up for the rest of the day.
Can women balance between life and work?
Of course, they can, but this will require some effort. Personally, I always put my family first. I dedicate my weekends to my family and never attend events, weddings or gatherings that take me away from them. On weekdays, I have two fixed hours (from 4 to 6 p.m.) during which I make sure to spend some quality time with my two kids.
Any word of advice for our readers?
Women empowerment can only happen if we support each other as women. Work together, support each other and raise ourselves up together.