A raft of reforms is starting to bring change to Saudi Arabia, especially for women. At DHL Express, however, females have already been fostered in the workplace for the past decade, and many are now boldly moving ahead in their careers.
Conservative traditions in Saudi Arabia used to mean strict gender segregation, with women not encouraged to enter the workforce. DHL Express however began hiring women from 2008, growing numbers steadily, with more and more taking on managerial roles and over 200 talented females employed today. MENA Customer Service, Tools, Processes and Projects Manager Reema Al Sadlan became the first woman to work in an otherwise all male office environment, spearheading change and empowering her colleagues, both female and male. She is also the first Saudi female to win a Gold Stevie Award for two initiatives she developed.
You’ve been able to climb the career ladder as a woman in Saudi Arabia. How?
Social reform is part of it. The government’s Vision 2030 is about diversifying the economy and developing people, which has resulted in more female participation on a number of levels. But working at DHL Express has been an even bigger factor. I’ve always thought that DHL was a few steps ahead of the rest of Saudi Arabia with regard to empowering women, partly because we are an international company.
"If I can do it, so can you!"
Is that what brought you to DHL Express?
You could say that. I joined a small team of women in the DHL Express call center in 2009 after graduating from university. I wanted a job that would bring me into contact with different people and cultures, so this role was just right.
Did you imagine you’d be winning a prestigious international business award just nine years later??
No! I feel very honored and of course grateful to DHL for the chance to develop myself. Our global Certified program, CIS, is a good example. In 2014 I became the first female facilitator for the program in the region, then a CIS Master Facilitator in 2015. This really sparked my own passion for people development. After attending a mixedgender CIS training course in Dubai, I asked my manager if I could train mixed-gender groups here in Saudi Arabia. Women training men was a pretty bold concept, but management supported me, and today I train 134 male and female colleagues in customer service. We broke boundaries, for sure, but I think the main driver was DHL’s commitment to developing its people.
Your award-winning initiatives also broke some boundaries.
When I became training and development manager for customer service in 2015, I saw a lot of room for improvement. I took a hard look at our hiring processes and came up with the idea of the Assessment Center. Rather than conduct a standard interview, I wanted to see what people are actually capable of and how they handle themselves in certain situations. This really helped us get the right people in the right places. Another issue was the need to improve English skills, which was the inspiration for the English for Everyone initiative. Both of these formats were brand new – the English program even unprecedented in Saudi Arabia – but DHL management supported me 100 percent.
What is your biggest motivator?
I love sharing knowledge with others and seeing how inspired people get when they’re assigned work that matches their talents. Empowering women is another big motivator for me. Thanks to the Stevie Award, I’ve been able to share my experience with a bigger audience and hopefully inspire other women. For me, the award also sends a message to my many talented female colleagues and to women in my country: If I can do it, so can you!