Saturday, 27 April, 2019

Research Shows Narrow Gender Gap on Health and Education, Progress Needed on Economic, Social and Legislative Empowerment

Alwaleed Philanthropies, General Statistics Authority, National Observatory for Women at King Saud University and UN Women Introduced Findings at Conference on Role of Women in Development


RIYADH – APRIL 27, 2019 – The first-ever nationwide study of women’s participation and development in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has revealed new information on the challenges facing women in the country’s economy and society.


The Participation of Saudi Women in Development study is the most wide-ranging study to be conducted on the social, economic, health and educational experiences of women in the Kingdom. It is the result of an innovative partnership between the National Observatory for Women at King Saud University, the General Statistics Authority of Saudi Arabia (GASTAT), Alwaleed Philanthropies and UN Women.


The study assesses women’s participation and development across 56 variables under five pillars: economic, health, educational, legislation and social.


Using official records gathered by GASTAT and data collected from 15,000 households in Saudi Arabia, it provides a value between 0 and 1, with a score closer to 1 indicating a smaller gender gap.


The findings provide an overall score of .62 for women participation in development and show narrow gender gaps in health (.98) and education (.92), indicating the systems and programs in these areas allow equal opportunities for women to participate in the Kingdom’s development. Lower numbers in social engagement (.65), economic participation (.42) and legislation and regulation (.13) highlight the need for stronger measures to empower women in these areas.


The research was conducted by an all-female team of Saudi experts who wanted to clearly understand the areas in which the Kingdom is progressing and still faces gaps. They sought to add local contextual to standard international metrics, for example establishing new variables under the social pillar to understand participation in civic life and community service.


The study was launched at a major conference, The Role of Women in Development: Towards a Vibrant Society, in Riyadh on April 27, 2019. Co-hosted by UN Women, the National Observatory for Women of King Saud University, the Saudi General Statistics Authority and Alwaleed Philanthropies, it featured leaders from the Kingdom’s government, academic community, philanthropy and private sector.


Speeches and roundtable debates focused on legislation and social capital programs to safeguard women’s participation in development, including to protect women’s rights and personal status, and ensuring access to healthcare and social services.


HRH Princess Lamia Bint Majid Al Saud, Secretary General of Alwaleed Philanthropies, said:

“To address the barriers Saudi women face in the economy and society we need to work together to support women empowerment. We hope this partnership can inspire the rest of the Kingdom to joining forces in an effort to further increase Saudi women’s participation and development in society. Working together allows to work smarter, not just harder, to ensure the voice of women across the Kingdom is heard.


“We also need to extend our support for women’s empowerment beyond the Kingdom. Alwaleed Philanthropies is proud to announce we will replicate the study in other GCC countries beginning in 2020. Together we can help women achieve their potential across the region.”


Dr. Maimoonah Alkhalil, Spokesperson from The National Observatory of Women at King Saud University, who conducted the analysis for the survey, said:

“Before this study there has been a significant gap between the progress we are experiencing each day in Saudi Arabia and our country’s continued poor positioning in international rankings. The aim of our goal was to develop more accurate gender data that would pinpoint the needs and interests of women in Saudi Arabia and target the locally important challenges to continued progress.”


Mohammad Naciri, UN Women Regional Director for the Arab States and Asia-Pacific said:

“We commend the efforts of the Government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on the Women in Development Study. Statistics that adequately reflect the lived realities of women are indispensable tools for developing evidence-based policies and solutions to achieve women’s empowerment. While this assessment shows improvement and progress in health and education, additional efforts should be exerted to improve indicators on social environment, economic development and legislation and regulation.”


About the Participation of Saudi Women in Development Study

  • The study was developed through a partnership between the National Observatory for Women (NOW) at King Saud University, the Saudi Arabia General Statistics Authority (GASTAT), Alwaleed Philanthropies and UN Women.
  • The study combines existing data from GASTAT and other sources with first-of-its-kind data and information gathered using a methodology and research instruments designed by NOW. Input was gathered from 15,000 households in Saudi Arabia.
  • The findings focus on key metrics in international gender-related research: health, education, economic opportunity and organizational structure (i.e., leadership positions in the workplace). In each of these four pillars, the study assesses between 8 and 20 variables.
  • The study also introduces a fifth pillar related to women’s engagement in society, assessing social capital variables such as engagement in the workplace, involvement in the community and charitable activity. It marks the first time these metrics have been included in a gender empowerment assessment.
  • By adding variables based on local cultural, economic and societal dynamics, the research will lead to more effective assessment of the challenges resulting from local traditions, institutions or contextual norms that may not be captured by international research.
  • The methodology aligns with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 and its e-government initiative to enable better data sharing to support the development and empowerment of the country’s people.