a 48-year-old spent 14 years as an operation executive at King Abdul Aziz
critical challenges posed by the coronavirus outbreak will require huge
economic and financial resources, but it will also test Saudi Arabia’s
professional and administrative skills to the limit.
unique situation, the talents of dedicated professional women such as Samar
Alamro are at a premium.
developed a career in medical administration and digital communications that
will serve in good stead in the difficult months ahead as the Kingdom, and the
rest of the world, tackle the unprecedented challenges the virus presents.
48-year-old mother of three from Riyadh, spent 14 years as an operation
executive at King Abdul Aziz Medical City, the facility in the capital that
provides medical services to the National Guard.
since moved to the private sector, and is now director of strategic operations
at the international consultancy Accenture — the first Saudi woman on the
firm’s executive council.
health care specialists are working hard on the issues thrown up by
coronavirus, and Alamro has an expert take on what will be required as Saudi
Arabia grapples with it.
praise the government enough for the measures they’ve taken so far. We’ve been
ahead of many other places, in the Middle East and the world,” she told Arab
we’re part of the world which has been affected by the virus, and we can’t
avoid it. But we have excellent facilities here and we’re taking it very
seriously,” she said.
measures to contain it have been taken very early and are very strict. Closing
the two holy cities of Makkah and Madinah was a very big move, but it was
necessary,” she added.
shops, other public places and entertainments have been closed too. It will
create frustrations, but that’s inevitable if we’re to get through.”
speaking after a week when the government had closed some public sector
operations altogether to limit the risk of infection, telling people to work
from home instead, and put restrictions on the private sector to ensure only
essential skeleton operations in industry and manufacturing continue.
Arabia also banned air travel with the rest of the world, and stopped all mass
land travel in the Kingdom — trains, buses and taxis. It is not officially a
curfew — yet — but physical movement has become severely restricted.
measures have resulted in a comparatively low level of infection as testing has
been ramped up and medical facilities expanded throughout the country. But how
will people as gregarious and family-oriented as Saudis take to the new regime?
still gathering in small family groups — that’s our culture. There are some
worries: How seriously are other people taking it? Are they really following
the government’s instructions to limit contact between people? But as far as I
can see, there’s a good spirit among us,” Alamro said.
to the challenges will also require close cooperation between the public and
private sectors in the Kingdom at a time of great change to its economic
Vision 2030, the plan to diversify the economy away from oil dependency, the
strategy is to strengthen and extend the private sector economy, which has
hitherto been dependent to a large degree on government spending. Alamro’s
career spans both sectors seamlessly. Her father worked for Saudi Aramco, often
regarded as the most modern and progressive corporation in the country, and she
credits his influence as a big factor in her professional life.
open-minded and visionary. When I graduated in the 1990s, the opportunities on
offer for women were limited. It was only public sector, and basically limited
to health care, education and banks. But it was still tough to be in a
mixed-gender environment,” she said.
her worldview with a spell in the US while her husband studied there, before
returning to Saudi Arabia for higher education and her own career.
had thought I should be a lawyer, but that option wasn’t really available at
that time. I didn’t feel I’d be a good teacher — that’s not really my personality,”
medical field was attractive, and I was lucky enough to get a job with the
National Guard hospital, in public and government relations, later moving on to
operations and logistics. It’s a very progressive organization, and at that
time they were investing a lot in the expansion of medical facilities.”
she moved to the private sector as an executive with responsibility for
government relations and health care with SAP, the global software business.
It was a
bold move for a woman in a workforce largely made up of well-paid and secure
always been excited about taking on new challenges, and I wanted to grow my
career and advance my prospects,” she said.
“I was one
of the founders of the SAP business in the Kingdom, and it was a good learning
experience. When I left in 2018, it was a well-established team, and I felt
like the mother of the office.”
worked with Accenture as a business partner while at SAP, and had little
hesitation joining the organization when it approached her.
“I was the
first Saudi female to join the executive team in the Kingdom, which was a big
challenge,” Alamro said.
Accenture is a very progressive organization on gender issues, and it likes to
empower women. It’s a complex and complicated company, but after two years I
feel as though I’m getting on top of it.”
the proportion of women in the Saudi workforce is one of the main aims of
Vision 2030, an ambition that coincides with Accenture’s own corporate vision.
some 47 percent of its workforce is female, very close to the goal of global
the proportion is lower in Saudi Arabia, Accenture is still higher than the
national average, and the company is pushing toward the equality goal.
It is a
knowledge partner in the W20, the women’s pillar of the G20 organization that
will hold its summit in Saudi Arabia later this year and is planning a
“virtual” summit of leaders next week.
has won awards for its work on gender equality and as an employer of talented
executive is a high-flying American woman, Julie Sweet, named by the New York
Times as “one of the most powerful women in corporate America.”
believes that women still face challenges in the workplace and in society.
“When I started in my career, women were already empowered to some extent in
the workforce. There were more social and cultural restrictions, but in the
workforce I always felt respected,” she said.
woman, if you know how to use your positive attributes you’ll do well. I’ve
always felt myself to be the equal of any man — I can do it as well as they
can, in fact I can do it better than most.”
think young Saudis entering the workforce will look to the private sector rather
than less demanding jobs in government positions?
fact it’s already happening. Accenture already has a large number of Saudis in
the workforce, and it’s growing all the time. We want to have more Saudis,” she
you have to work harder and longer in the private sector, but I’m a workaholic
and it has never been a problem to motivate myself.”
As a wife
and mother with a demanding fulltime job, she understands the challenge of
striking a balance between work and other aspects of everyday life, such as
family and leisure time.
has always encouraged my career, and I’ve been lucky to have the support of an
extended family,” Alamro said.
“I felt no
guilt about working fulltime, and never felt the need to leave the children with
a nanny all the time. But I’m dedicated to them, and when I stop work, I make
sure I devote time to them and the rest of the family.”
as a professional strategist, and as a mother, will be in full demand in the
months ahead, but she is convinced that Saudi Arabia will get through the
coronavirus crisis. “As an Islamic society, we always have faith in God, and He
won’t let us down,” she said.
Headline: A Saudi Woman’s Take on the Coronavirus Crisis
Source: The Arab News