Female leadership in a time of change within Saudi Arabia

About the event

Dreams, belief, and commitment: the three words that power women leaders.

Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 development plan includes major policy changes designed to provide greater opportunities for women, including better access to leadership positions in every sector, from government and diplomacy to business, entertainment, and sport.

In this first Distinguished Speaker Seminar of the academic year, Eleanor Murray, Oxford Saïd’s Associate Dean for Executive Education and Senior Fellow in Management Practice, interviews Manal Al Madi, Deputy Governor of Strategic Partnerships and Communication, The Saline Water Conversion Corporation (SWCC), about what those changes have meant for her.

Al Madi draws on her personal experience to talk about:

The importance of role models, government support, and family encouragement

Even before the Vision was announced, Al Madi’s father would describe her as ‘the future minister’: she grew up with the expectation that a leadership position was attainable. Young women now can have even greater confidence, she says: ‘they will achieve earlier what we achieve now’, because not only do they have explicit official support, but female role models in every sector demonstrating what is possible.

Passion and persistence

Every leader in every sector faces challenges. What helps to overcome them is their passion or sense of purpose (Al Madi joined SWCC after realising that fresh water has to be rationed in some regions), flexibility, and persistence.

Work/life balance 

Al Madi believes that being able to manage your own life is integral to being a leader. Success does not come from focusing on work alone, but from making time for family and friends and for looking after your health.

Her advice to other women aiming for leadership roles around the world is, ‘Maintain your network; read a lot, search a lot, find success stories … Be passionate, believe in yourself.’