Saudi Arabia’s stock exchange has appointed a woman to the position of chairperson for the first time in the kingdom’s history, sparking hopes that the country is progressing—albeit slowly—towards gender equality.

Sarah Al Suhaimi, who became the first female chief executive of a Saudi investment bank when she took the role at NBC Capital in 2014, accepted the offer to chair Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul, the largest bourse in the Middle East, replacing Khalid Al Rabiah, the organisation said in a statement last week.

The announcement was followed by Monday’s appointment of Rania Mahmoud Nashar to the position of chief executive of Samba Financial Group, one of the country’s largest national banks.

Ms Nashar has nearly two decades of experience in the financial sector and previously held several jobs at within Samba, according to Bloomberg.

The appointment of women at top financial jobs is an important step for the Saudi Arabia, where about a third of the female population is unemployed and women are still not allowed to drive. Women are also subject to a male guardianship system which in many cases restricts their opportunities to work.

“Social change is intrinsic to the National Transformation Plan,” said Monica Malik, chief economist at Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank PJSC told Bloomberg, referring to the kingdom’s list of policies unveiled last year that are designed to wean the economy off its dependence on oil.

Source: Independent

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