HRH Princess Reema Bint Bandar Al Saud was born in Saudi Arabia and raised in the United States. Growing up, she was instilled with the knowledge that she could do anything her male counterparts did. When she returned to her home country as an adult, though, al Saud recognized that not all girls are brought up with the same ethos. In Saudi Arabia, women are not allowed to drive, and they make up just below 18 percent of the workforce. Immediately, she wanted to make a change.
“We have our own national journey,” she said of the country’s need for gender equality. “We might just be at a different starting point.” At Wednesday’s Women in the World summit in Los Angeles, al Saud spoke in depth about the work she’s done as the CEO of luxury retail corporation Alfa International, parent company of Donna Karen in the Middle East and Harvey Nichols, to bring women into the labor market. By hiring female store clerks, offering day care and offering transportation to and from work, she’s reshaping the way the country views its female residents — and the way they view themselves.
“You have to have confidence and self-respect to engage [others] with self-respect,” she said. “We have to realize that women working is a catalyst for change.”