Creating a New Chapter in History: Working Women in Saudi Arabia
What happens when you take one of the most intractable problems in Saudi Arabia and a leading marketing professional in the Middle East with entrepreneurial flair?
The creation of Glowork, the first e-Portal and social enterprise dedicated to women’s employment and empowerment in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East.
“Women working in Saudi has always been a taboo,” said Khalid AlKhudair, founder and CEO of Glowork. “[But] I want to write a chapter in history books for this great country and leave a trail for others to follow. I wanted to take the most difficult thing in this country – anything related to women – and drive sustainable change.”
Glowork’s entrance into the market has been controversial and disruptive, garnering a lot of attention and growing rapidly. But, Khalid has embraced it:
“When we first started and placed women to work in supermarkets, we were attacked by certain segments of the community, whether verbally or by email. But, we didn’t even think twice about shutting down. We decided to face the challenge head on using a systematic approach in which everyone would look at Glowork and its activities as a benefit to them and their family.”
Glowork and women in Saudi Arabia have seen the fruits of Khalid’s patience and perseverance.
“Receiving a text message or a call saying thank you for creating a stable income for a family is more than enough for me; it gives me a reason to break any obstacles we come up against,” Khalid said. “Saudi is known for its obstacles, what makes us different is we took them as our opportunities. We broke them down and paved the way for a bright future.”
Khalid credits his success and ability to create a clear vision for Glowork to his family, especially his wife who is he calls “a true example of a strong Saudi women and an inspiration for every man and woman out there.” Khalid also upholds his father’s example who supported his mother in her work and education. “They set the bar for me in how a man and women should go about living their lives,” Khalid said. “It’s all about splitting life 50/50 and together, no matter what challenges come up. If both are hand in hand, nothing can stop you.”
Along with his role of Glowork CEO, Khalid was recently named an Ashoka Fellow and won the Entrepreneur of the Year Award at the Global Thinkers Forum by her Majesty Queen Rania of Jordan. He is currently the curator for the World Economic Forum Global Shapers in Riyadh, sits on a steering committee for the Ministry of Labor, and is also an advisor to the Minister. He is a board member of four organizations and recently started his own branding/creative agency called Brandbuzz, which supports Glowork and also works on developing Saudi women in the fields of design and creativity.
“I am grateful that at the age of 29, for all the roles I have been given locally and internationally,” Khalid said. “I grew up in Canada and the UK for over 18 years in my life…I want perception of the West about Saudi Arabia treats women to change. I would like to see labor laws for women in Saudi Arabia become a benchmark for global markets. Today, if a Saudi organization has over 50 female employees, it must have a nursery in-place. This examples shows how far we have come as a country and how important equality in the labor market is becoming become.”
“What I see for Glowork in the future is that if we can make this a success in Saudi, we could eventually roll out the model into the neighboring countries and drive change there. We have been approached by several government officials in different countries that have asked us to start but we want to ensure success here before expanding.”
For the rest of the year, Khalid plans to travel and share his story, to inspire others, and help women connect to more and more “glowing careers.”