Written By: Szilvia Olah Assoc
The number of women in the Saudi Arabia workforce at AccorHotel has steadily grown in the past five years. Some of this can be attributed to a program designed uniquely by AccorHotels, called the Saudi Management Training Program (SMTP), a fifteen month program that aims to accelerate the readiness of Saudi nationals for leadership roles which includes our female colleagues. Despite this trend, the achievement has not been without struggle, resilience and determination by the program participants. Whilst the media positively portrays accolades for the appointment of the first female hotel General Manager in Saudi, achievements from less senior profiles aren’t always as widely recognized.
With the following article, I would like to recognize the fantastic workforce in Saudi Arabia, including our male colleagues, who are ever so accommodating towards women’s development and inclusion. Secondly, acknowledge the women themselves, who through their determination are changing the landscape of our talent pool. Coupled with this, the Saudi Government is strongly supporting the integration of women into the workforce through educational and economic policies, which is already resulted in significant changes.
Female representation in our workforce in Saudi was almost non – existent five years ago, particularly in the front of house and guest facing departments. As the female numbers have increased, the responses from guests vary, both positively and negatively, when they see a woman behind the reception desk, in the lobby or food and beverage outlets.
I have an immense amount of personal respect for these women, not only because they are able to handle difficult situations, but they also maintain composure when confronted with guest and colleagues alike, who may be opposed to the idea of them being in guest facing areas or just being outside of their ‘typical’ environment. Guests demonstrate this in a variety of ways, such as; standing in a queue waiting for a male receptionists when the female is available, or openly and verbally challenging their presence in certain jobs. The list of challenges are endless, but the point is that they are overcoming them one-by-one, ticking them off on their imaginary ‘challenges ahead’ list.
There are more and more people who are becoming increasingly supportive of women working in guest facing environments and contributing to their success stories. Some women expressed their gratitude, and said that “it was easy for them to deal with a lady at the reception, they felt safe and could ask anything without hesitation”. One Saudi guest offered one of them a job at his company as he found that “standing behind the reception is a proof of her courage and self-confidence”.
As we can see things are changing fast. So fast in fact that, whilst just a couple of years ago we barely had a handful of women working in our hotels, today, we have 250 women across the Kingdom, 6 of which are fulfilling managerial positions, and 19 are in a supervisory roles. Meeting these amazing women opened my eyes to the fact that achievement doesn’t only mean becoming a GM or getting promoted but rather, breaking barriers whatever they might be, and trust me these women aren’t afraid of doing so. They are full of life, determination and goals and I don’t see anybody being able to stop them.