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Olayan Saudi Holding Company: Giving Commitment and Drive a Fair Chance

Olayan Saudi Holding Company: Giving Commitment and Drive a Fair Chance

Saudi Arabia is a relatively young country, formed less than 100 years ago. Up until recently, the role of women within the economy of the Middle Eastern state was in the public sector: education, financial services, healthcare.

In recent years, however, there has been a move to increase the presence of women in private-sector organisations, driven in part by Olayan Saudi, a global manufacturing and distribution group based in Riyadh. Led by its CEO, Lubna Olayan – who joined the group in the early 80s -, Olayan begin hiring women in various roles in the early 2000s, which was an uncommon practice at the time.

This positive action on gender equality recalls the values of the group’s founder, Suliman S. Olayan. As explained by Lynne Fliefel, VP Corporate Affairs, ‘he truly believed that if an individual, regardless of their background, if they had the commitment or drive to contribute to the growth of this organisation, then they should get that chance.’

This principle has driven Olayan’s growth into a group comprising more then 40 companies, operating in partnership with leading multinational and regional firms.

Nevertheless, there is still criticism – much of it justified – about gender inequality in Saudi Arabia. However, as Lubna points out for perspective, it took women in the West decades to achieve equal rights on many issues. Given Saudi Arabia’s status as a relatively young state, the pace at which it has to change is much faster.

Olayan Saudi recognizes this, and is investing in the future of its people and communities to help facilitate that change. This has been manifested in the Olayan Future Leaders Program, in which the company invest in young, local talent, providing them with the knowledge and tools to advance into managerial positions in a short space of time.

This program, too, promotes gender equality. ‘We are gender-blind within our company,’ Lubna explains. ‘There is no preference of background, religion or nationality. It is a level playing field for everyone. It’s your determination and hard work that matters.’

Cultivating an environment where everyone is welcome, and where collaboration can thrive, is the only way to drive a sustainable form of operations. Doing so has enabled Olayan Saudi to become an example of gender equality within the country, and a key contribute to the United Nations Sustainability Development Goal on Gender Equality. 

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