Saudi Arabia has appointed two women to senior positions in government, the latest sign that the kingdom is looking to diversify a predominantly male workforce. Shihana Al Azzaz has been named the first female Deputy Secretary General of the Saudi Cabinet, according to a royal decree issued on Sunday.
Al Azzaz was one of the first women licensed to practice law in Saudi Arabia and joins from the Public Investment Fund, where she was general counsel. As part of the changes, Princess Haifa bint Mohammad Al Saud has been appointed as deputy minister of tourism. She was previously assistant minister of tourism, in charge of implementing the kingdom’s tourism strategy - a key plank of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s goal of diversifying the economy.
Saudi Arabia has been gradually loosening restrictions on women as part of the government’s plan to get more nationals to work in the private sector. Over the past few years, authorities have lifted a ban on female drivers and allowed them to travel without the permission of a male guardian. Still, the rate of female unemployment is roughly four times that of male citizens, data showed last week.
In June, the kingdom appointed a former Saudi Aramco executive Sheila Al Rowaily as the first female to join the board of its central bank. Other women in leadership positions in the kingdom include Sarah Al Suhaimi, chairwoman of Saudi Arabia’s stock exchange, and Rania Nashar, compliance and governance chief at the Public Investment Fund.