Hind Alzahid

Undersecretary for Women’s Empowerment

I was born in Dammam to ambitious parents. They both had full-time jobs, but that did not stop them from pursuing their dreams.

My father was a lecturer at the Institute of Public Administration and when he was offered a scholarship, he decided to start his own business with a printing press, followed by packaging and then a plastic factory.

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My mother was the first school principal at the First Kindergarten in Dammam. She later started her own private school in Dammam, AlManahel School in 1994.

I grew up around these two passionate individuals, learning the ropes and gaining experience, but my grandmother was also a great source of courage and empowerment for me and all of the women in my family. Although she appeared to be traditional and ordinary, she was a sophisticated woman and an avid reader of books on subjects such as history, politics and sociology.

Her father, my great-grandfather, was one of the first teachers in Khobar, and he was passionate about educating his daughters. My grandmother in turn raised us to value education and become financially independent.

After graduating with a degree in English Literature from Imam Abdulrahman bin Faisal University, I started working for the family business.

I found self-fulfillment in working with companies. I worked for Alkhaleej For Training and Education as a saleswoman, and six months later I became a sales and customer service manager, taking on responsibility for overseeing my seniors and peers. I was later promoted to regional manager of sales and marketing in the Eastern Province.

For a short period after that, I worked with Jadwah Investment. This was a memorable time for me because it taught me a lot about finances, investment and the capital market, and I also received a certificate in investment from the Financial Academy.

I decided to take the job because I knew I had the abilities, qualifications and network that could help me accomplish something important for women in Saudi Arabia.

During this time, I also joined the Chamber of Commerce and Industry and served on a number of its committees. I was only 25 at the time, and was asked to head its Businesswomen Center, a position I continued to fill for 11 years.

That experience showed me the great value of networking, starting with governmental entities such as the ministries of commerce, investment and labor, the investment authority, and Saudi Aramco. At the same time it also allowed me to connect with private entities, including large-scale businesses and small and medium-sized enterprises.

It also brought to my attention the fact that one of the main reasons there are fewer opportunities for women in business than men is that they lack access to the right networks. It helped me explore and understand the market and the politics of business.

This was followed by a golden opportunity in 2017 to become a board member of the Dammam Airports Company. I was the first woman in a leadership position in the Saudi aviation sector. I had no experience in the sector when I started the job but I welcomed the challenge and enjoyed a successful time at the company and on its committee for nomination and remuneration, which deals with issues related to human resources.

In 2018, I joined Saudi Aramco as a management development adviser to help develop a strategy for diversity and inclusion. This was specifically targeted at women facing problems in the workplace so that their talents can be recognized and any issues arising in the workplace can be resolved.

In 2019, I was asked to join the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development as the undersecretary for women’s empowerment as part of its efforts to achieve the Vision 2030 goal of increasing the participation of women in the Kingdom’s workforce.

Accepting the offer meant that I had to move to Riyadh, and initially I had some reservations about doing so as it meant that my children would have to change schools. But I decided to take the job because I knew I had the abilities, qualifications and network that could help me accomplish something important for women in Saudi Arabia.

We have enjoyed many successes, including the development of gender-equality strategies, changes to the laws and regulations relating to male guardianship, and improvements to work regulations. I also worked on the launch of Qiyadyat, a platform that includes the first digital database in Saudi Arabia designed to help businesses connect with qualified female leaders.

I am a strong supporter of the empowerment of Saudi women, whether it is in the workforce or as citizens. Even when specific situations surrounding this issue have nothing to do with me directly, if it affects the women around me I am immediately invested.

I live by the following quote: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.” It has helped me pick my battles throughout my life and overcome challenges I have faced at work.

I consider my children to be my greatest achievement. I have an 8-year-old son, who has already been praised at his school for the passion he has shown for the empowerment of women, and a 10-year-old daughter. I am proud to be their mother.

At the beginning of my life, my father was my pillar and biggest supporter. After that, my brothers encouraged me to persevere and keep working hard to succeed. That encouragement has continued from my husband, who is my partner in life. Both of us have very demanding jobs that require a lot of traveling — he works for Saudi Aramco — but he has always supported my career, as I have his.

We provide each other’s support system, and we also work together to support our children, their education and their future. If we did not have each other’s backs, I do not think we would have been able to succeed and achieve what we have.

I will continue to work for women and do whatever I can to empower them. I want to see the Kingdom become a leader in the field of empowerment and diversity. What Saudi Arabia has accomplished in the past two years took other countries 60 or 70 years. Whatever I can do to keep us going in this direction, I want to continue to be a part of that.

Follow Hind AlZahid
Twitter: @hindkz
LinkedIn: @hind-al-zahid

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