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Setback for Saudi Business Women

Under new segregation rules, female bankers in Saudi Arabia are being separated from their male counterparts and supervisors. Women are also barred from meetings important to their work. The sex segregation will be enforced by moving women to all-women suites, building partitions within the office space, or by moving all women to the first floor to avoid contact with men in elevators.

According to the Associated Press, Saudi Arabia has traditionally enforced a strict code in which men and women are segregated in public places, including schools, universities, restaurants, lines outside international fast-food outlets, and bank branches. Women have also been banned from professions in the legal system, journalism, engineering, geology, and any other job designated as hazardous or dangerous.

Saudi women bankers are outraged at the government’s false assertions that the new rules will provide more employment opportunities to women, who are estimated to fill only 10 percent of the work force. While banks are a main employer of Saudi women, most employed women are in the education and health sectors.

“We graduated to work in banks because they offered unparalleled career development opportunity in the kingdom, and now this. We are making one step forward and 10 steps backwards,” a senior Saudi women banker told the Jamaica Gleaner on condition of anonymity.

Sources:

Jamaica Gleaner 6/25/07; AP 6/26/07

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