The fifth of November was the deadline for applying for administrative and technical jobs at the new Princess Nora University in Riyadh. There were 218 positions available and the number of applicants was 40000 women and according to the Alwatan news channel the number was closer to 46000. So that is an average of 211 applicants per vacancy! And this is only in Riyadh, although it is the biggest city in the kingdom. Still that is a large number considering the fact that there are over 5 and a half million expatriates in the country, many of whom were brought in to do the very same kind of jobs these unfortunate women applied for. So many women looking for jobs that exist but are out of their reach because of numerous issues. Some of these issues are:
- One important problem is that expatriates are willing to do these very same jobs for a lot less and for longer hours.
- Gender also plays a major role since segregation is imposed on almost all sectors.
- The women might have the right credentials on paper but when you come right down to it they aren’t trained at all. To illustrate I will tell you of three incidents of many that I have come across. The first was concerning a newly appointed computer engineer at one of my workplaces. She was Saudi and had just graduated from a five year program from a major Saudi university. She did not know how to hook up a printer to a computer and had to have a secretary show her. Another very common issue is with the Saudi English teachers at our schools. There are so many times that I have come across quizzes and exams where I had to first correct the questions because they were so full of grammatical and spelling mistakes before I could look at how the students performed. And don’t ever bother asking a Saudi librarian for help, she’s probably just as lost as you are if not more so. Why is this? Because at many of our educational institutes, we only go through the act of teaching and not really teach and train our students for the real world. Unlike the other issues, this problem is being addressed currently and many of these institutes are going through significant changes for the better.
- We have an overwhelming epidemic of passivity. Maybe it is the heat but it is so disheartening to see the number of young men and women who are not passionate about anything. They act like old men and women at a nursing home. All they care about is their immediate comforts, living day to day in a fog of hopelessness. When I ask them why not do this or that they simply shrug their shoulders. In other countries 46000 applying for the same jobs would cause an outrage and people would take to the streets. A craze of patriotism would take over and heads of companies who do not have a substantial number of Saudis on their payrolls would see boycotts of their products…etc.
- The final problem that faces women here is mobilization. I know that many people especially Saudis say that this is only a superficial symptom and that there is no urgency in addressing it. I say otherwise. Driving and being able to get around is a major obstacle facing thousands if not millions of women all across the country. 46000 women who were able to reach the university to apply, I wonder how many sat at home begging a brother, father or husband to take them.