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Equipped for resilience

It is our pleasure to present the first edition of the Female Leaders Outlook for Saudi Arabia. Leveraging on the findings of our global survey – this year in more than 50 countries – and our own survey in the Kingdom, we have gathered insights from female leaders across different industries. The key theme we addressed was how female executives dealt with the consequences of the Covid-19 outbreak. Where relevant, we also contrast findings from the CEO Outlook, whose participants were predominantly male, thus providing additional comparative insights.

The Covid-19 pandemic is the defining global crisis of our time. It has been a disrupter for societies and economies alike. Compared with previous crises, Covid-19 has the potential to ignite more persistent change, not only in our personal lives – like working from home and the home-schooling of children – but also in business-related areas, like accelerated digital transformation and communication, as well as the public space with wider governmental involvement and regulation.

Another salient aspect of this crisis is the disproportional effect it is having on women. Besides the obvious impact of Covid-19 on people’s health and world economies, the effects of lockdown measures are particularly acute on private lives. School and nursery closures, for example, have increased pressure on women around the world. They predominantly have had to bear the burden of organizing and caring for families while working from home.

The decision to take part in this study was taken ahead of the outbreak of the pandemic and was encouraged by our partnership with Women 20 (W20), one of the engagement tracks of G20 that was hosted by Saudi Arabia in 2020. During the virtual W20 Summit in October, we were plaesed to present and discuss the initial findings of our survey.

Women empowerment in Saudi Arabia is a well-debated subject, but we believe that, especially for women in business, this report can bring new and encouraging insights. The pandemic made apparent that female leaders face unique challenges, making it even more interesting to discover how male and female executives choose to manage differently. 

The survey covers economic and business expectations, risks and opportunities, as well as on career and gender diversity factors. This framework enables us to draw comparisons between the pre-pandemic world and the new reality.

Our respondents are less pessimistic about the impact of Covid-19 on women and their career advancement. Indeed, the crisis may create new opportunities for women as a result of improved digital communication, advances in technology and changes in stakeholder expectations. This has led us to put forward the view that Covid-19 could be a catalyst for gender equality, if not in the short-term, at least in the mid- to long-term.

We hope you will be inspired by the results of the Female Leaders Outlook: Saudi Arabia.