Driving Change 2.0
On June 24, Saudi Arabia and empowered people all over the world celebrate the second anniversary of women driving in the Kingdom. Introduced amid sweeping reforms in 2018, the right to drive has helped Saudi women unleash even more of their tremendous talents. It made them a force to be reckoned with, in Saudi Arabia and beyond.
On a regular day, Bashayir Al Barrak is a graphic designer and social media manager for DHL Express Saudi Arabia. Her colleague Maha Al Madi is a Retail Supervisor. However, 2020 is not a regular year and the two women, many female colleagues and fellow countrywomen have shown that a virus and its ensuing lockdown is not about to stop them.
Al Barrak and another colleague delivered parcels with personal cars during Ramadan. Al Madi was at the wheel to drive urgently needed life-saving medication to King Faysal Hospital in the middle of the night, ahead of the COVID-19 lockdown in Saudi Arabia.
As a Marketing Management trainee based in Al Khobar, in the Eastern Province, Al Barrak is one of the women who volunteered to deal with a great surge of parcel deliveries. Saudi consumers took to e-commerce in droves during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown to buy new clothes and gifts during the Ramadan period. The result has been an intensified and enduring peak season.
“From what we have observed in our own business, e-commerce in Saudi Arabia has grown by 500% since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing lockdown,” explains Reem Al Dhafaq, E-commerce Product Manager at DHL Express Saudi Arabia. “In the run-up to Eid, the festival which marks the end of Ramadan, we saw even further growth. Fashion, coffee and cosmetics were trending.”
It was all hands on deck for DHL colleagues. Everyone gave a helping hand to relieve pressure on operations, making women play the unfamiliar role of courier.
“I helped during weekends,” says Bashayir Al Barrak. “There was a curfew from 5 p.m. to 9 a.m. during Ramadan specifically, so I made deliveries from 10 in the morning. I handled 20 shipments per day.”
As Al Barrak spoke to Delivered, temperatures hit 40 degrees Celsius in many Saudi regions. This, combined with Ramadan’s fasting, made any physical work challenging.
“Imagine that you are in the street to make deliveries in the heat, without having water or food,” says the management trainee. “It’s difficult because your energy level is lower during that time, but I enjoyed helping and I know how hard my colleagues work in operations. I especially liked seeing happy consumers who thanked me for taking on another job than my own. The courier experience was energizing in that way. Of course, there were also demanding customers who asked where their other shipments were, but that’s normal everywhere!”
“Seeing the level of happiness and pride on our customers’ faces at their doorsteps brought a great deal of joy to my heart,” said Atha Al Otaibi, Telesales Executive at DHL Express Saudi Arabia. “Going out of my way to support our couriers has made this experience so much fun and enjoyable despite the challenges we faced. What touched me the most was how our customers reacted when they found out that women were delivering their shipments. They came out of their houses to meet us on the street to express their appreciation and gratitude. This experience made me embrace DHL’s As One spirit even more.”
“The purpose of life is to be useful, to be honorable, compassionate and to make a difference,” says Al Madi. “There is no exercise better for the heart than reaching other people.”
Trained to become a manager, Al Barrak is one of the many faces of change in Saudi Arabia, where women tackle increasing responsibility in the workplace and in society. “DHL has invested in us and it’s nice to give back. The country is transforming itself as well, with more women working in the field, assuming leadership positions and being involved in corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives.”
“I have been based in the country for three and a half years, and I am very happy to see many more women in key positions,” says Sue Donoghue, Managing Director, DHL Global Forwarding Saudi Arabia. “I am delighted to be in a company that strongly supports women in leadership.”
“We couldn’t reach the same level without leadership support", confirms Maha Al Madi. "We love our jobs and work from the heart.” — Michel Munger, Michelle Bach
Published: June 2020