Closing the gender gap within KSA legal recruitmentVictoria King and Cormac Byrne are Cooper Fitch Legal In-house recruitment consultants who specialise in the recruiting of top tier international and local lawyers across a range of industries.
Over the course of this blog we will delve into how the Kingdom has transformed over the years through legal reforms and regulations in line with Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 and how that has in turn contributed to women joining both the workforce and the legal industry in the Kingdom.
A number of recent changes have placed women in Saudi Arabia at the forefront of the country’s reform agenda, marking a significant turning point in the Kingdom’s history. According to the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development (MHRSD), the government in Saudi Arabia remains strongly committed to female empowerment, with a significant increase in female participation within the labour force across the country. A key factor aiding the increase in engagement of women is Saudi Arabia’s vision 2030 program, which included the creation of one million jobs for women across the country. Since the launch in 2016 the Kingdom have managed to achieve their target a decade earlier and there has been a concerted effort to reduce the gender gap in the workforce.
With the growth in education levels, age brackets and different socio-economic backgrounds, women have doubled their presence in Saudi’s labour force since 2017, presently at 33%. According to the World Bank, the changes to the scope of businesses made by the Kingdom have played a fundamental role in enhancing and diversifying economic growth in Saudi Arabia. With the funding of many projects and initiatives, opportunities have been created for women in both the public and private sectors. Additionally, statutory employment rights, state benefits for the vulnerable and pensions are some of the reform programs that have gained most from more female inclusion. All these contributions have subsequently led to an increase in the number of women in the legal field.
Females within the Legal Industry
In recent years there have been significant changes to the laws in Saudi Arabia which have contributed to the success of working women and created opportunities for females to be able to enter the legal industry. Changes to guardianship, driving, the opening of childcare centres and the introduction of pension care credits for maternity leave have also all contributed to women being able to join the legal industry in Saudi Arabia.
The private practice sector saw great potential to invest in female talent and with a change to the law in 2011, law firms were able to obtain permission from the Ministry of Labour to hire female law graduates. In an interview with Multilaw and the founder of the Omar Alrasheed Law Firm it was stated that in 2013 there were 10 licensed female lawyers in the Kingdom, along with a small number of female legal trainees and in early 2018 the number of Saudi women who obtained a licence to practice law increased by 29% compared to just 13% for men. Additionally, there has been an approximate 60% increase in Saudi women who have entered the legal profession since 2017 showing significant developments in the industry. Saudi Arabia Vision 2030 has not only led to the creation of jobs for women in the legal profession but we have seen additional contributions from the Government with the sponsoring of various courses, seminars, and other activities designed to promote the role of women in the legal market. The promotion of females in the marketplace is essential to Vision 2030 and a crucial part of the economic engine driving Saudi’s transition to a more diverse economy.
The future of Saudi Arabia
Women are currently forming approximately 45% of the Saudi Arabian population and we have seen the number of female graduates entering the labour market continue to grow year on year. According to the founder of Omar Alrasheed Law Firm, in 2020 Saudi female labour force participation increased from 25.9% in the first quarter to 31.4% in the second quarter, additionally, from 2016-2020 the rate of female unemployment in the Kingdom decreased by 13.9%. By analysing these numbers, we expect much more long-term balanced gender employment across all industries.
Presently, the Saudi legal market is growing at a rapid pace and developing more specialised fields, for example the financial regulatory body, Saudi Capital Markets Authority is adding post-license qualifications which allows law firms to practice in the financial field. Also, many laws have recently been passed, including revisions to arbitration, procurement law and bankruptcy amongst others. Saudi Arabia’s large Giga-Projects, Red Sea Development Authority, NEOM, Soudah Development Company, Al-Qiddiya and others also involve separate regulatory structures. This refinement in the legal structure across the Kingdom tells us that we should expect an increase in job opportunities.
We will continue to see an increase of female lawyers across the legal industry, with many female Saudi national lawyers currently attaining their law qualifications. Vision 2030 will no doubt increase the number of expats coming to the Kingdom, this initiative combined with the changes in laws and regulations will see Saudi Arabia becoming an extremely popular destination for female lawyers to enhance their careers. At the moment, there is a significant demand in Saudi Arabia within Corporate M&A, Capital markets and TMT lawyers, we expect that this demand will bring great opportunities for both local and international female lawyers.
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