Up­date: STC’s diver­sity push

Saudi Ara­bia’s largest telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions com­pany is tap­ping into a grow­ing reser­voir of fe­male tal­ent to pro­pel it to growth.

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Saudi Ara­bia’s largest telco is tap­ping into a grow­ing reser­voir of fe­male tal­ent to pro­pel it to growth.


Re­gional telco gi­ant Saudi Tele­com Com­pany (STC) is rapidly in­creas­ing the num­ber of women em­ployed at the Riyadh-based firm.

At the start of 2016, STC em­ployed only a hand­ful of women. “Less than 10,” ac­cord­ing to group CEO Eng Nasser Al-Nasser.

The head­count wasn’t unique to STC. Saudi Ara­bia ranked four coun­tries from last place among 144 coun­tries in the World Eco­nomic Fo­rum’s 2016 Global Gender Gap study of how equally women par­tic­i­pated in busi­ness, pol­i­tics, health and ed­u­ca­tion.

How­ever, a se­ries of rapid re­forms in the coun­try since, in­clud­ing the di­rec­tive to al­low women the right to drive, as well boost­ing the fe­male work­place par­tic­i­pa­tion rate to 30% per­cent by 2030, is spurring changes across the econ­omy, in­clud­ing at STC.

“In 2018 we have more than 200 Saudi fe­male em­ploy­ees in var­i­ous busi­ness seg­ments in 42 cities in the King­dom,” Al-Nasser told CEO Mid­dle East in an in­ter­view.

“We just hired an­other 100 new fe­male grad­u­ates this Septem­ber as part of our ‘Tal­ent In­cu­ba­tion’ pro­gramme and have also ap­pointed our first fe­male di­rec­tor,” Al-Nasser said.

‘Work agility’

The change in work­ing cul­ture at one of Saudi Ara­bia’s largest or­gan­i­sa­tions in­cludes a range of ini­tia­tives to sup­port “work agility.”

“We have re­cently in­tro­duced a telecom­mut­ing pol­icy that al­lows peo­ple to work from home. We are also pro­vid­ing our fe­male em­ploy­ees with a child care al­lowance as well as spon­sor­ing fe­male em­ploy­ees to get their driv­ing li­censes. Changes at the or­gan­i­sa­tion come at a time when it has been fac­ing a num­ber of ex­ter­nal pres­sures. “Rev­enue-wise, a de­cline in unit prices, con­sumer spend­ing, cer­tain reg­u­la­tory de­ci­sions, and the ex­o­dus of ex­pa­tri­ates has put neg­a­tively im­pacted the in­dus­try’s top line,” said Al-Nasser.

Rev­enues in the tele­coms mar­ket in Saudi Ara­bia have de­clined by up to 4% in 2017, and Al-Nasser ex­pects that the mar­ket “will re­main flat for the next 3 years.”

STC has also faced calls for cut­ting back on its or­gan­i­sa­tional largesse by trim­ming from its nearly 17,000 strong work­force.

How­ever im­prov­ing prof­itabil­ity – the com­pany’s lat­est half year re­sults un­der Al-Nasser’s 6-month ten­ure show a 14 per­cent growth in net in­come – and find­ing “amaz­ing fe­male tal­ent,” are en­cour­ag­ing signs enough for AlNasser to want to con­tinue in in­vest­ing in their devel­op­ment.

“Peo­ple are amazed on how smoothly our fe­male em­ploy­ees have be­come part of STC. We see a much more ad­vance­ment in women han­dling key roles and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties,” he said, “and all this is just a quick snap­shot. There are more ways we are ex­plor­ing to em­power them.”

We see a much more ad­vance­ment in women han­dling key roles and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties.”

- STC Group CEO Eng Nasser Al-Nasser

Elaf Al-Hazmi, the first fe­male em­ployee at STC to get a driv­ing li­cence in Saudi Ara­bia.

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