Highly skilled, CEO of an educational organization and proud Saudi women, Nouf Al-Rakan is one of those women in Saudi Arabia that intend to make things change. By education. By work. But mostly by self-confidence.
She’s proud to say she’s “a business woman”, being the CEO of Educational Initiatives, an educational development center based in Riyadh. But more specifically, Nouf Al-Rakan is a believer. She has faith in a bright future for Saudi Arabia, carried by young talents, and where women are empowered through studies and work. And the Neom city project announced by Prince Muhammad Bin Salman gives her grounds for hope.
As head of an educational development center, what would you say about women education level in Saudi Arabia, especially in science and engineering?
Almost 17% of the Saudi graduates from STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, ed) fields are actually young Saudi women. They surpassed their male peers in all STEM sectors with the exception of engineering and architecture. We’re always trying to diversify the fields of STEM and also find jobs for them to fill up the gap in the Saudi economy.
In your personal case, as a Saudi woman, how did you experience studies and reaching the job market ?
Life, in my case, was more difficult. I got a class A education. My parents did not cut any costs when it came to educating me and my siblings. It was difficult for me and my generation to come up with this high level education and try to push ourselves in the labor market. When I started working, the job market was very little in offerings for women. It’s something that I carried over as a person. When I worked as a pro bono in the chamber of commerce, we lobbied a lot in the job market, trying to get vacancies for women, trying to change the labor law for women. Sometimes, you can’t just wait for change to happen. You have to push for that change.
What advice would you give to Saudi women nowadays?
All women, not only Saudi ones… Believe in yourselves. Don’t ever self-doubt yourselves. Women are very smart. They should support each other whether they are Saudi or not. Try to create space for you and other women. It’s a support network. If we do not support each other as women, I don’t think we will achieve as much as we want.
On a different matter, what do huge projects such as Neom city, inspire you for the future of Saudi Arabia?
I’m a total believer in the future. And I think that we, in Saudi Arabia are stepping ahead people into that. With the huge announcement of Neom city, its funding and budget, I have full confidence that we will come up with educational programs that can deliver for us that unique vision that Prince Muhammad has announced.
What would be the biggest obstacle that would prevent the country from stepping ahead?
The biggest obstacle is that there are people who are hesitating, skeptical. It’s a generational change. Some people still use their old phones while the younger generation lives in a different universe, technology and social media wise. They’re moving in different fields. Those who are skeptical, at a certain point, will realize that they have to come onboard. And I hope it’s not too late for that. I think the future is for young people, and young people are leading us to the future.