Women & Youth Empowerment

How the creative industry is challenging gender inequality

HRH Princess Lamia Bint Majed Al Saud
Secretary General of Alwaleed Philanthropies

Now more than ever, we must create a culture of inclusion that fosters diversity and empowers women. This is particularly pertinent in times of crises, with the Covid-19 pandemic having challenged the normative structures of almost every community around the world, highlighting a dire need for economic independence and welcoming new avenues in the creative economy.

Gender equality, if left unchanged, will undermine global economic stability. When we invest in a woman’s empowerment, it has a ripple effect on families, communities and countries whilst reshaping societies and unlocking women’s full potential.

The Covid-19 pandemic put a halt on life as we know it, with many people flocking to the creative industry, turning to crafts, films and digital concerts as an outlet. In doing so, the world sustained the creative economy, a piece of the global economy that had been previously overlooked. Following a year of uncertainty, there could not be a better time to appreciate the creative economy. It comes as no surprise that the United Nations has marked 2021 as the International Year of the Creative Economy for Sustainable Development.

If cultivated, the promotion of creativity can contribute to greater gender equality, by enhancing inclusion and diversity within the labour force, while giving way to a host of positive reverberations including job creation, socio-economic progress, structural economic transformation, innovation and sustainable human development.

To promote greater gender equality and enhance creativity, we must explore different facets of society and ensure there is adequate representation. Organizations of scientists, sociologists, psychologists and economists have time and time again published research that has proven that diverse groups – specifically, gender-inclusive groups – are more innovative than homogenous groups. The simple act of engaging with different genders brings unique perspectives and experiences.

Women in the creative economy have been particularly marginalised. The UNESCO Report on Gender Equality and Culture 'Gender Equality, Heritage and Creativity’, which calls for deeper debate, research and awareness-raising in support of equal rights, identifies the key challenges our communities are facing with women’s participation in the creative workforce. A few elements continue to hinder women from reaching their full potential while impeding global sustainability and inclusive social development. These include limited participation in decision-making positions, referred to as the ‘glass ceiling’; restricted opportunities for ongoing training, capacity-building and networking; unequal pay; and the prevalence of gender stereotypes.

Philanthropy and the humanitarian sector have an important role to play in overcoming these barriers, to ensure that women are provided with equal opportunities. One key avenue, is the development of specialised educational and training opportunities for women in the creative space. This supports the economic and personal empowerment of women, while also preserving their rich cultural heritage. In turn, this provides future generations with intangible assets, such as, inventions, designs and an understanding of their cultural history.

Restricting creative opportunities, particularly for women and marginalised groups, leads to a loss of great ideas, weakens economic empowerment, and reduces representation within the sector. We must actively pave the way for women now, to ensure a more equal world for the next generation.

At Alwaleed Philanthropies, our empowerment programs continue to bridge the gender gap and stimulate innovation. We are committed to providing women everywhere their right to education, employment and intellectual freedom so that talented professionals can realize their ambitions and reach their full potential. We are committed to challenging gender inequality by supporting the creative economy, which in turn drives the economic development of communities across the globe.

Armed with transferable and agile skills, women have the power to positively impact their communities and develop economic independence.

Empowering local artisans

We work closely with our local, regional and global partners to identify gender-based challenges and strategically design initiatives that close these gaps and inspire real change in the creative sector. We have long understood the importance of creativity and have dedicated our efforts to supporting local artisans with a series of entrepreneurship and educational programs.

Through our partnership with the Turquoise Mountain Institute, we empower local artisans to become entrepreneurs within the creative industry by providing them with artistic, technical and economic opportunities. In turn, we pave the way toward economic independence while preserving diverse cultures and heritage for generations to come. Working alongside the Turquoise Mountain Institute, we have collectively spearheaded the revival of Afghanistan’s historic craft traditions and supported the Higher Education Institute for Afghan Art and Architecture with financial aid. We educate female artisans, honing their skills in ceramics, painting and woodwork as well as train them to become entrepreneurs. Once they have undergone an intensive three-year program, we support their businesses with workshop space, tools and materials as well as product development and commercial support to expand their reach across markets. To date, their crafts have sold as luxury goods or into 5-star hotels internationally.

Locally, we support female entrepreneurs in Saudi Arabia by spurring the growth of the craft industries and ensuring women earn a sustainable livelihood through their crafts. We develop craft markets across the Kingdom that give hundreds of female artisans’ access to new markets and commercial opportunities, whilst preserving valuable handicrafts and traditions including jewellery making, calligraphy and Al Sadu weaving. We are building a network of thriving female entrepreneurs and creating a sustainable crafts sector. We hold workshops on entrepreneurship, branding and production to help female artisans develop into their business skills and become confident entrepreneurs. In addition to addressing gender inequality and enabling the next generation of female entrepreneurs, we are able to offer communities a sense of purpose whilst fostering a strong sense of community engagement across the globe.

Armed with transferable and agile skills, women have the power to positively impact their communities and develop economic independence. When we value the talent and skills of women in our societies, we unlock the potential of half of the world’s population. We stimulate our collective recovery while preparing for future crises. We shape the future for a better tomorrow by creating a social and economic system that supports and empowers a gender that has been historically overlooked.

As we work together to collectively pave the way for the next generation, we must place gender equality at the heart of everything we do. Gender equality is a fundamental human right. It is a United Nations Sustainable Development Goal, and importantly, it is also instrumental in guaranteeing a better future for the next generation.

I trust we can work together to celebrate the creative economy, bridge the gap of gender inequality and build sustainable economies at home and beyond. We are seeing the growth of the creative industries worldwide, giving way to more job and training opportunities than ever before.

Additionally, we must ensure female representation across sectors, support the protection of female rights across all of our communities and empower women to strive toward leadership opportunities. For example, as part of Alwaleed Philanthropies’ efforts to support and empower Saudi women, we have partnered with Careem to develop female talent in the Kingdom and support new female drivers, referred to as Captainahs. In March, we delivered our third instalment of the 100 cars we pledged to Careem Captainahs as part of our efforts to bridge the gender gap and provide equal opportunities for employment.

As we move toward a new era, it is imperative that women are placed at the heart of every sustainable development plan. This entails allocating resource to address gender inequality, including driving female participation in the labour force, allowing for female representation across all industries, empowering women to become entrepreneurs and promoting diversity across all levels in the workplace.

Creativity itself is an efficient tool for promoting gender equality. Creators develop consumable content that has a broad reach. Their messages can directly influence gender awareness within the communities they attract. Looking ahead, there is an opportunity for the humanitarian sector to partner with support creatives through greater employment prospects, support the preservation of local heritage and amplify gender equality across the world.

I am confident we can do more to challenge gender equality and address the challenges women experience as entrepreneurs. We must celebrate and compensate their work, honour their rights to freedom of expression and provide them with access to decision-making positions across all sectors, including policy, legislation and the creative economy.

I trust we can work together to celebrate the creative economy, bridge the gap of gender inequality and build sustainable economies at home and beyond. We are seeing the growth of the creative industries worldwide, giving way to more job and training opportunities than ever before.

Additionally, we must ensure female representation across sectors, support the protection of female rights across all of our communities and empower women to strive toward leadership opportunities. For example, as part of Alwaleed Philanthropies’ efforts to support and empower Saudi women, we have partnered with Careem to develop female talent in the Kingdom and support new female drivers, referred to as Captainahs. In March, we delivered our third instalment of the 100 cars we pledged to Careem Captainahs as part of our efforts to bridge the gender gap and provide equal opportunities for employment.

As we move toward a new era, it is imperative that women are placed at the heart of every sustainable development plan. This entails allocating resource to address gender inequality, including driving female participation in the labour force, allowing for female representation across all industries, empowering women to become entrepreneurs and promoting diversity across all levels in the workplace.

Creativity itself is an efficient tool for promoting gender equality. Creators develop consumable content that has a broad reach. Their messages can directly influence gender awareness within the communities they attract. Looking ahead, there is an opportunity for the humanitarian sector to partner with support creatives through greater employment prospects, support the preservation of local heritage and amplify gender equality across the world.

I am confident we can do more to challenge gender equality and address the challenges women experience as entrepreneurs. We must celebrate and compensate their work, honour their rights to freedom of expression and provide them with access to decision-making positions across all sectors, including policy, legislation and the creative economy.