We also have a female board member as well as female managers and General Managers serving in various leadership positions across the company.
But, I am going to be honest with you. While Saudi Aramco has made solid progress in the last couple of years, we still have a lot of work to do.
And that is why we are recruiting more talented and qualified females than ever before. In 2018, we hired twice as many females as we did in 2017 and more than half of these new female hires last year were in STEM-related roles.
I have no doubt that this positive trend will result in a substantial transformation of our workforce. Going forward, we will see more women holding more roles at all levels at Saudi Aramco.
I also firmly believe that advancements in Artificial Intelligence and other areas of technology will open up multiple doors of opportunity for women in the workforce.
For example, I fully expect to see women play a key role in fields like cyber-security in the years ahead.
To anyone who might doubt the ability of women to excel in such specialized IT roles, I have two words: Hajj Hackathon.
Saudi Aramco was a sponsor of this hackathon event last July in Jeddah. And the winners – who beat out some 3,000 other participants from around the world – were an all-female team from Saudi Arabia.
Clearly, there has been progress in the energy industry and also elsewhere in the Kingdom. The recent appointment of the first-ever female Saudi Ambassador should create even more momentum and provide further inspiration.
What is also clear, however, is that it will not be easy moving the diversity needle further along – from impossible, to possible, all the way to commonplace.
For the oil and gas sector as a whole, a critical challenge is overcoming the misperception that the industry is a dead-end career for women. As the Global Energy Talent Index Report also notes: attracting more women to jobs in the energy sector is an obvious way to address the skills gap facing our industry.
For companies in general, the challenge will be to find ways to better balance the gender diversity within the talent pipeline. Saudi Aramco, for its part, is actively encouraging young women to enter the STEM educational stream and we are currently sponsoring some 300 females who are pursuing STEM-related degrees.
We are also working to promote gender diversity beyond Saudi Aramco through organizations like GROW, through initiatives such as the country's first Women's Business Park and through partnerships like the one we have with GE and Tata that created the first all-female Business Process Service Center in Riyadh.
As for people in leadership, the challenge ahead will be to continue to eliminate the barriers that hinder the ability of women to excel once they are in the workforce.
This includes providing both professional and personal support for women – everything from dedicated career advancement programs to expanding daycare services that make work-life balance better.
A key challenge for women, is not to get too discouraged by the pace of change.
In fact, let me conclude by speaking directly to the women in the audience on this very point.
Men, you are also welcome to listen along!
To the women here today, you are likely going to continue to encounter people at work who say to you: “just be patient”.
I want to be perfectly clear that I am not telling you to be patient.
Rather I am telling you to be prepared.
Be prepared for when more barriers come down in your workplace.
Be prepared for new job opportunities from new and evolving technology.
Also be prepared to compete for advancement on the basis of merit, as this will continue to be the foundation of any strong company.
And be prepared to mentor other women – and also men!
Be prepared to be a role model for those who will follow in your footsteps.
Ultimately, like the pioneering women who have come before you, be prepared to be persistent.