Meet the female engineer challenging perceptions in Saudi Arabia

“I hope Saudi women raise their voices,” Norah AlOtaibi tells Grazia
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Meet the female engineer challenging perceptions in Saudi Arabia

The major changes in Saudi society just keep on coming. Today, 30 per cent of women contribute to the total work force in the private sector. Yes, there’s a long way to go, but Grazia is excited about the way the country is heading when you consider only 12 per cent of women were employed in 2011. 

Meet Norah AlOtaibi. She's a respected female planning engineer who is making major decisions in an engineering and construction company based in Saudi Arabia. It’s a pretty impressive role, and Norah tells Grazia she's noticed a modernising change in the work place over recent years. "2018 is the woman’s year," she gushes. "The company I work for, Arkad E&C, wants to empower their female employees side-by-side with their male ones. I really hope other companies can do the same to help develop our country."  

Day-to-day, the 33-year-old is on site, managing and monitoring the daily progress of projects for the business. So how did she get into the role?

“I studied in private school which meant I took many courses in chemistry, physics and maths,” Norah starts. “I then pursued the job after I received a bachelor's degree and later a master’s degree in construction management. I really enjoy my job and I work with 50 amazing women every day. In the past 18 months alone, Arkad has improved from one per cent to 15 per cent of females.” Glad to hear it. 

Away from the office, Norah tells us about a typical weekend in the KSA: “I forget about work and I enjoy my time with family gatherings and hanging out with friends,” she says. 

Talk then turns to Norah’s hopes for women in Saudi in the future. “My hope is that women raise their voices and get inspired by other talented and powerful women across the region. Personally I would say I see Nabilah al-Tunisi as a hero. She’s a chief engineer and was recently recognised as one of the 25 most influential women in project management. She inspired me with her hard work. I hope women can use these role models as motivation to pursue their dreams.”

Finally, how does Norah feel about being weeks away from having the opportunity to legally drive alone, as the country’s driving ban is lifted? “A huge step is coming in a couple of weeks everyone is excited for it,” she replies sincerely.

 Here's to the next chapter of continuing to recognise women in Saudi Arabia as assets to their country. 

Photos: Supplied