BEIRUT, July 20 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - An Algerian biomedical engineer is on a mission to make it easier for women to find work in Saudi Arabia by creating the first job-searching website for females in the deeply conservative kingdom.
Australian-born Naziha Deriche, 23, who was raised in Saudi Arabia, realised after completing her postgraduate studies in Sydney last year that it was hard for her and her friends to find jobs in Saudi Arabia.
"Most of the jobs advertised are ... for males in Saudi Arabia. And the working environment is mainly very male dominated here so I felt that there was a problem, sort of a gap," Deriche told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.
So she set up a free website in March this year called "Alajnabia", or foreigner in Arabic, with the aim of increasing the amount of women in the workforce by connecting job seekers with recruiters.
"It's an ironic word. The reason we used that word 'foreign' is the fact that the idea of women working here in Saudi Arabia is so foreign," said Deriche, speaking from Dubai where she is working because she couldn't find a job in her field in Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia is well known as one of the world's most gender-segregated nation, where women live under the supervision of a male guardian, cannot drive, and in public must wear head-to-toe black garments.
But the kingdom is trying to diversify its economy and reduce its reliance on oil with its Vision 2030 economic reform plan setting a target to lift women's participation in the workforce to 30 percent by 2030 from 22 percent.
Women can now work in certain retail and hospitality jobs and this year the Saudi Stock Exchange appointed its first female chair, Sarah al-Suhaimi.
Deriche said she and her friends saw the main issue with female unemployment as not just the few available jobs but also poor advertising.
Deriche, who is working with 40 recruitment agencies, said the website has had 1,000 resumes uploaded since it was set up and keeps growing.
On the site job seekers can look for work and also employers can advertise jobs and look at the women's resumes.
Jobs are also advertised on website's social media platforms.
"We're creating a healthy environment for competition where people are hired based on their skills, their qualifications, their abilities - rather than connections, or through word of mouth, or through knowing someone," said Deriche.
"I know people may think it's just a job board, but it was more of a social initiative. I wanted it to be something to simulate women empowerment." (Reporting by Heba Kanso @hebakanso, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith; Please credit Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit www.trust.org)