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Saudi females and physically challenged receive training and enter workforce Dispelling Stereotypes, Expanding perceptions, Developing Skills, Changing Lives, Strengthening Community
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Dispelling stereotypes about them, 50 Saudi female high school graduates, a number of them physically challenged, entered the workplace, after receiving sponsorships for 6-months targeted work skills training by Petrofac Saudi Arabia, Ltd. Research was conducted in the marketplace with the local Chamber of Commerce to determine specific job openings available and required. Agreements were struck with employers in the region to hire these young women upon training completion. The young women, employers, and community expressed appreciation and the program has become an inspiration internally within our previously all-male company and externally in the business community.
The Saudi women, especially physically challenged, entered the workforce, and with their performance smashed negative stereotypes commonly publicized in international media. From interviews, the young women’s self-confidence skyrocketed, and doors opened which they thought would always remain closed. Their male workmates around them gained a wider perception of the contributions these young women can make to an organization, themselves, family, and everyone who knows them. Ultimately, our program has filtered through the business community about Petrofac. i.e. we were a new entrant, unknown in this country, and now we’re known widely because of this CSR activity.
In the local very conservative social environment, this bold step was carefully calculated to achieve success:
1. Jobs were ready and waiting – not just training, and then bye-bye, fend for yourself
2. Training was targeted to job market needs
3. The local Chamber of Commerce provided the training (for legitimacy and high stature in the community)
4. Physically challenged were included, to open doors to them, and change perceptions about their capabilities in the local mindset[/one_half_last]
Publicity about our efforts in the local media was weak (we didn’t do anything about that); perhaps a strategic plan would have sped up the awareness in the community about the program. However, our intention was to do this for the community and the young women to start something that was significant for them and their families, along with the eventual benefits to the organizations and community, rather than toot our own horn in the media about our company.
One take away: word of mouth sometimes is more effective than media exposure, as we have found out.
Since we hired some of the trainees in our previously all-male staffed company, the all-male staff has really had their eyes opened to the capabilities of young Saudi women — long-held stereotypical beliefs/perceptions have been changed or are being changed on a 1 to 1 daily basis.
The main messages for us are:
– Always see more in people than others are willing to
– Give people a chance and you’ll be pleased at the outcome
– Things can really change with a little help from friends
– With clear intentions and a strong will to help, success is close at hand[/one_half_last]
Manager of CSR and Organizational Development
Petrofac’s Saudi Arabia office
He is responsible for training and development of and the CSR program for the company in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Before this he worked with the Bechtel Corporation and Lucent Technologies. He has also been a Lecturer in US and European universities in communications and management.
After an eight-year stint as a Hollywood and Las Vegas publicist, Daniel worked on a CSR-related program in the 1980s, as a special advisor to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. There he formed the widely-known “Say No To Drugs” campaign using the film, stage, and concert celebrities he knew to promote safety.